Service of Time Off to Reflect and Refresh

July 27th, 2017

Categories: Mental Health, Reflection, Time Off, Vacation


I have a hard time sitting still if I’m not at my computer. There’s always something that I feel should be done. This pressure runs in the family. I relax fully when I’m away from office or home and when I return from a break I lower the decibels of activity for a bit and feel refreshed. Surprise: The world hasn’t fallen apart.

This is why I was drawn to these two wise perspectives to taking time off. I think that the same advice applies if you’re the boss, if you’re looking for a job, if you’re a stay-at-home parent, if you’re retired—to everyone.

Father James Martin. Photo:

“My novice director used to always say ‘You’re not a human doing, Jim. You’re a human being.’ Do you always need to be doing? Producing? Can you find time to rest, to be silent and to pray? Can you be a human being?” I read Father James Martin’s comment in a Facebook posting. A man who juggles multiple projects, he had taken off a few days after a hectic book tour. Among many other things, Father Martin is the author of “Jesus: A Pilgrimage;” “The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything;” “My Life with the Saints,” and “Building a Bridge” and editor-at-large of the Jesuit magazine America.

Judy Schuster sent me an article about a tweet heard ‘round the world—well, if not that far, almost. When Stephanie M. Bucklin covered the story on Today a while back, it had already received over 10 thousand retweets.

The subject: Taking a day off for your mental health and admitting it. Bucklin quoted the web developer whose boss, on seeing her honest note to her team, praised her for admitting the real reason she wouldn’t be at the office. The tweet: “When the CEO responds to your out of office email about taking sick leave for mental health and reaffirms your decision.100.”

Not everyone has a boss like this, wrote the Today contributor, so if you feel burned out, what to do? For ideas she interviewed Ken Yeager, the director of the stress, trauma and resilience program at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. He says that on weekends you’re not recharging your batteries, you’re filling time, by “binging on Netflix or watching HGTV marathons.”


He suggests “getting outside, visiting friends or cooking with your family members. Things like taking your kids to the zoo, seeing a show or concert or even just fixing that leaky faucet give you more energy back, too.”If “you still feel like you’re in a rut at work” he recommends you suggest to your boss “moving projects around, switching up tasks among team members and figuring out other ways for you to move, grow and do new things.”

Yeager’s other ideas: Attend a workshop, an industry conference, eat out, and choose a different road to work, “switch up your routine and re-energize you.”

Have you admitted to taking off a mental health day? Have you left work early to catch a baseball game, matinee or to shop? What techniques do you use to short-circuit ruts and to restore your energy and creativity if you can’t disappear for a day or two to dust off your mental health?


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4 Responses to “Service of Time Off to Reflect and Refresh”

  1. HB Said:

    Surprise! Everybody is different. We all need and get our R & R in different ways, at different places, under different circumstances and in different amounts. However, I have yet to know anybody who doesn’t eventually need it.

    One of the best deals I worked out for myself was back in the 1970s and ‘80s, when I was travelling extensively in the Middle East Africa. It was the “Wild West” period, just after oil prices broke, in the history of the development of the region and travel there was still relatively primitive and could be an adventure. Thanks to the mix of religions in that part of the world, it was also possible to work nonstop without a break for two consecutive weeks of calendar business days, and we often did. There were then always people around with whom one could have a useful conversation. As a consequence, often, I’d go twelve or more straight days on the road.

    For that level of dedication to the job, I decided that I deserved a compensatory long weekend off on the way home. Fortuitously, Venice, my favorite city in the world, sits pretty much under where planes fly over on their way to the Middle East from London and Paris.

    The only thing left for me to decide after that was which left me tired more when I got home, the two weeks in the Middle East or my weekend in Venice?

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:


    That sounds like a wonderful and fair compensation. No doubt those dozen days were jammed with meetings along with countless trips to airports and delays, eating meals at odd hours–and sometimes unusual food–and a bit of tension until you’d achieved what you’d hoped for, for starters. You must have arrived in Venice totally exhausted, only revived to walk around that enchanting city to then face the long flight home. No wonder you needed another breather on your arrival in NYC! However the carrot of Venice as bonus probably helped you keep up the pace for the 12 days before.

  3. Lucrezia Said:

    Time out is a necessity for most of us, and there are as many satisfactory ways to find it as there are people. I have a long and boring (to others) list of how to accommodate myself, ranging from time at home, to traveling to totally strange places. I suppose there’s a difference in terms, and perhaps meanings here. Some call it mental health. I see it as having a life!

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Good point! I think in certain industries if you’re not available 24-7, you are left out of promotions and raises and eventually, in some cases, a job. That’s why the boss who praised his employee for a mental health day–or a having a life day–is to be commended and, hopefully, copied!

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