Today is my first day back at work since 22nd December, and in between I had a complete break. It took quite some doing, but I actually managed to step back from all responsibilities in that period, including those outside my role as CEO, those related to family and friends, volunteering, CPD, goals I set myself and so forth.
Prior to the end of December, I had over-extended my energy. Usually, I am very good at judging my capacity to do things, both at work and in my life in general. My capacity to get things done is considerable, and I have a lot of experience of pushing through tiredness, managing overload and finding ways to maintain balance even when things are extremely stressful. But at the end of last year, I felt that I had come to the limit of my capacity to stretch, and I pushed myself far outside of my comfort for extended periods.
Looking back at that now, from the comfort that weeks of winding down and good sleep, I am glad that I took action to step back from things, delegated, shared, stopped and switched off.
It isn’t always easy to get the right kind of break when you find work stimulating, when you have a lot of interests, when you are high achieving, love your job and enjoy juggling a lot of things on a daily basis. Thriving on busy-ness and finding inspiration when a deadline looms can feel great. But – the past couple of years have been challenging enough to tip the balance.
For me, taking a break required switching off from all work-related communication channels completely, to log off and close down apps and to clear my schedule.
It took over a week for me to actually wind down properly, and I spent the week being as busy or as lazy as I wanted to be, doing festive things with family and friends, going on long walks with the dogs, reading and playing a lot of Pokémon.
After a week or so, I started to relax.
I slept a lot, rested more, found energy to do some exercise, head to the coast… and find joy in things. Energy started to return, as did my sense of compassion, fun and interest in engaging with people once again.
It feels great to return to work knowing that I did really get a break, and not whilst keeping half an eye on things. Sometimes, you really need to take a step back.
It’s been over a decade since I became a CEO in 2012, and one of the things I have learnt is how important it is to prioritise your own wellbeing at times, particularly as there will always be something else that demands attention.
So here’s to having a break, the break I really needed, and to returning to work with energy and a renewed commitment not to push to hard.