Episode 85: 3 Tips to Manage Stress Before Taking a Holiday

Shivani Gupta

Welcome to the AskShivani Podcast. Today, we're going to talk a bit about this notion of how much work do we need to get done before we have a break. Through the pandemic, one of the things I've noticed in conversations with colleagues and clients, that people have needed to have very much a respite and a break. And those breaks that where we used to get away and go to our favorite places, whether they'd be in your own country, or hop on a plane, and go either near or far, you know, a lot of those choices were taken away from us and for some of us still have been taken away from us. So as we starting to know that the pandemic has gone away, but as we're starting to navigate through the fact that a lot of us can now travel, and at least to certain places, domestically, within your own countries, but also now starting to be overseas. I've noticed more and more people feeling quite stressed about taking time off.

Now, this is not a new phenomenon. You know, for many years, many decades, people have this massive amount of workload. And they feel that they need to finish that whether you work for somebody else, or whether you work for yourself. And one of the things is you want to do the best service, whether that's for your staff or for your clients internally or externally to the organization. And again, the same thing applies whether you run your own business, or whether you work for other people.

And so, you want to have this almost what we call this mountain of work, this big stress curve, in terms of getting to that crescendo or getting to that peak, so that you can get all of this work done before you are able to take this much needed break. And then when you come back, there's this again, this big curve of stress and climbing up to that crescendo to catch up on all the different things that you might want to do. One of the things I've noticed, speaking to certain clients, particularly some female clients, is this need to continue to provide amazing service, a 24/ like all the time, 365 days a year. And that is not possible, right? We know that we're not robots, we know that we're humans, we know that we need those times, to be able to have the respite to be able to have that break, whether it's just stopping work, and just getting away for some time, but you need that, you know, rest and relaxation or rejuvenation, R&R, as we often call it. So why is it that we feel all this stress? And how could we try and perhaps reduce some of this stress? And this is the question that I've been asking a number of clients and also working with a number of people around that same issue.

And here are the two or three big key things that have come out of those conversations, one is that I noticed that I have a healthy sense of ego and I have an unhealthy ego. Now the healthy ego says, hey, you've got to take pride in your work, you've got to help your clients out and make sure that you get the work done that you want to get done. And to be able to provide a pretty good standard, the unhealthy part when my healthy ego moves into the unhealthy part, this is what happens. The voice is constantly telling me you are not enough, you haven't done enough, you need to be doing more. It's kind of telling me what to do constantly. And I never, it doesn't matter how much work I get down. Doesn't matter how many clients I might have. One doesn't matter how many presentations I made; it doesn't matter how hard I work. This voice I find if my ego when it's in its unhealthy state is relentless. It's constantly nagging me, it's constantly telling me that I'm not enough, constantly telling me that I need to do more. And when I do more, and I listen to it, same issue, it's like never ever goes away.

So, one of the conversations I've been having with people is to really notice - are you is your ego and its healthy state, or hasn't moved into its unhealthy state? So, to be able to do work to the best of your ability and the time that you have to work smarter, and harder. All of those things is fantastic. But sometimes, even if you've done all of that, and you've been able to create so many different things, and this voice is still telling you that it's kind of not enough. That's when we know that we've entered an unhealthy state. And that voice as I just said, it's never enough. So, we really need to become aware of it, we really need to then be able to say hey, this is an unhealthy state of my ego. And I need to be able to still have the ego and do my work. But how do I bring it back into the healthy state. So, the conversation might look like I'm three days to go before I go on a holiday. And I've got you know, let's say 73 tasks that I need to get done. There is no way that the time that I have available, I'm gonna get 73 things done. So, I prioritize those lists and I come up with the top 15 things out of those 73 things that I need to be able to do that are urgent and are important, and I need to be able to get them done.

Alright, so you start doing them and you work really hard, you work some extra hours, you work really diligently. And by the third day, you get all 15 things done, maybe you get an extra couple time. But unhealthy voice will say, there is still so much to do, and you are not good enough, the healthy part would say, well, there's still a lot to be done. But in the time that I've had I prioritize, I did everything that was in my control and my power and my timeframe, I worked really hard, I worked really smart, I've got these 15 things, hey, there was a bonus action that I did, which was number 16. That's all I can do, I need to let go of my leave, and then need to really have my R&R, really need to rejuvenate and recharge, and then be able to come back and come back and kind of do it all again. And again, when you come back, you will have the same conversation. Look, I know there's lots to be done. There's a lot of things to catch up on, whether that's emails, updates, catching up with your staff, your team, again, prioritize what you need to get done in the first few days. And so, you don't have the state of overwhelm, do the bits that are the masks, not the ones. And then we get to the ones a little bit later. And again, just be kind to yourself. But healthy ego is kind to yourself, the unhealthy ego is never kind. So, to be able to listen to this healthy ego that says - Hey, I know that you have just come back from leave, I know there's a lot of things to be done. Here's my list of priorities, again, working hard, diligently smart, and being able to get through them. So that's probably the first thing is just recognizing where you're in and where you're not.

The other thing is that if you ever say to your staff, if you've got team, or you say to some of your clients, look, I don't think you can ever take time off, or sorry, staff, I know you get paid for however many weeks, you might have annual leave, whether it's two weeks or four weeks, depending on which side of the world you're on. But sorry, you can't take that anymore, you need to be working through all of your leave, I think your staff will probably, you know, perhaps swear perhaps use other expletives and not say very nice things about that, and they probably have a very short period of time would not want to work for you, they need that time.

Same thing with the clients, if you said to the clients, hey, you know, I don't think you should be ever having a break, I really think you need to be working, whether it's again working for somebody else or themselves. And you cannot actually have a break, and they would probably not want to work with you or you to provide those services to them. Because they'd say what you're asking for, it's ridiculous. However, what we wouldn't impose on others, we sometimes impose on ourselves, I was speaking to somebody the other day, and they are now looking at cutting some of their holiday from about three weeks, down to about two and a half weeks ago. It's not much a family. It's only three or four days. And really, that would allow me to get some other things. So, we would never impose that on our team, we would never impose that on our clients. So then why do we feel like we impose that on ourselves. And so, then the conversation went along the lines of talking to people around leadership, right? Because self-leadership is really important. So leading is really we do the walk, we do the talk, whatever we say we do, and then other people do that around us. So, when we have this attitude that nobody can survive without us, and you can't actually have that leave, it's not a great thing to impose that on yourself. And just remembering that that, that would not fly in any business model to be able to not allow people to take leave and allowing yourself giving yourself the permission to be able to do that.

So, I've done sometimes really simple exercises where you write in your journal, or you write yourself a permission note, which basically says I give myself permission to go away on these three-week holidays. And I'm going to have great experiences I'm going to really ground in, I'm going to set my intentions, I'm going to have some great time with my family or friends, depending on who you're structuring this with. And I'm going to come back really recharged ready to go again, and I give myself that permission, and leading what you would ask others to do, doing the walking and talking and making sure there's congruence in what you do for yourself, and what you would expect others to do as well.

The third thing that I really wanted to talk about is this notion that, you know, nobody can leave without us. If and again, it's sometimes a little bit of that ego that kicks in that says, you know - I'm really, really important. I've left certain corporate roles before I started my own business 20 years ago, and there are some clients that you work with. And after a while, sometimes a client leaves you and sometimes you leave the client. And there may be a little moment of you know, disheartened or feeling a bit sad about letting that relationship go. But you know what, the organization survived without me fine. And when I moved into stayed away from one of my businesses, I had a team that was running organic day spas, and I was living in another state. And I remember thinking – oh my God, my business is going to go down and it's not going to do very well.

And one of the things that was a really big blow for my ego was not only did the business manage to do well, but it also actually started to do more well over time. And one of my big learnings out of that particular experience was that I this notion that we've been talking about for a very long time of working on the business versus in the business. And when you're working on the business, you get more strategic. And when you're working in the business, you tend to get the operational to put it very simply. So, one of the things I recognized is that my ego was keeping me in the business, it was saying, You need to control the staff, you need to know about all of this, you know, you kind of indispensable basically, this business can't run without you showing. And you know, what, as I said, it did run really well. And in fact, it flourished, you know, to the point that I exited that business.

So just this notion that somehow people can't survive without you. And if you're going away for a trip with your friends, and you're leaving your family behind, or vice versa, thinking that you know, the whole world is going to come apart. And if there's that much of a dependency, it's probably good that you're testing it. And the fact that you're going to take some time out, so that you can experience that and work out what you need to do. So really recognizing that you're very important to some people, not to say that you're not important, but you're not indispensable, it's okay to take some time out, and your clients will be fine. If you're going with your family, your family will be fine. If you're leaving work, your work and your staff will be fine. And in fact, they might even flourish because they've got some opportunities to be able to grow and step up into certain positions, and certain projects and be empowered in certain things, not to say you disempower them, but they sometimes just naturally have to step up from what they're doing.

And so really, if you are taking a break, then apply those things. Having said that, I'm just about to take three weeks, and I've been planning and talking about this podcast for a few weeks now. But it's interesting that this week, I'm going to take some time out. And again, I felt even when I'm sharing with you and some guidance with you, I certainly felt that stress and overwhelm - oh, my goodness, I've got to do that presentation. Goodness, we've got to record this podcast. I've got some mentoring clients on to do that. And then that's on top of all the different things with, you know, kids, and I worry about silly things. Sometimes like because we're all a vegetarian family, we're going on the plane. And because we're going to the other side of the world, there'll be nothing to eat for my kids like has happened in the past. So, then I'm thinking about snacks, we're going to pack what we're going to take what we're not, and then my head gets very full.

And so, I'm sharing that very openly and vulnerably. With you that while I'm talking about certain solutions here, I've just been through that cycle. And I've had to really remind myself of these three principles and realize that it's absolutely okay to go and do this. And finally, after four years of not being overseas as a family to finally be able to stop, take a breath, really go, and celebrate some space and time in our school holidays, and come back really recharged. I hope today was helpful. Always happy for some feedback. I hope you have a wonderful day.