Photo Credit: Cecile Graat
Last Sunday, I was flying home exhausted after a tiring, busy, non-stop educational conference in Houston. To make matters worse, because of the rainy, overcast, and stormy weather, we ended up spending 45 minutes in the tiny commuter plane on the runway in Detroit. Finally, we took off around 9:45 PM for South Bend, Indiana, where the weather was equally dreary. My exhausted mind was restless dreading the busy week ahead. After the plane had made the touchdown, the young and cheerful air hostess came on the air, “Welcome to Cancun, Mexico, where the current weather is a sunny 90 degrees with a pleasant breeze from the west!” and everyone started laughing! The cloud in my mind evaporated instantly, and it occurred to me that it was all in our heads. It all depends on how we look at our work.
Studies have indeed shown that it is not the work, not even, the overwork that kills us, but the negative emotions associated with work that kills us. Can we look at our work with the same excitement and joy we look our vacation with? How can we do that? Well, here are my 10 tips to help us turn our work into an all-inclusive vacation.
1. Get Excited. Tell your spouse every Sunday evening, “Hey dear, I am ecstatic, excited, and thrilled that I am going on a 5 day, 4 night, all-inclusive vacation starting tomorrow!”
2. Dress Brightly. Wear the clothes that you wear on vacation; a Hawaiin shirt, a tourist hat, those cool sunglasses, and yes, your hiking shoes. You may have to modify these based on your work requirement, but at least try to dress happily. I see doctors wearing a Disney tie or pair of jeans. They will joke, “I thought it was the Denim Day today!”
3. Take a scenic route to work. My scenic route takes me through an apple orchids, where I can catch a glimpse of a bright sunrise most days. You may say, “Doc, I drive an hour each way in the traffic. I can’t do that.” Well, look at the beautiful sky often as allowed by the traffic and you may find a crescent moon, or clouds with a golden lining, or even better a brilliant sunrise. Listen to the funny talk show on your way to work or to an audio book that is light and refreshing.
4. Dance at Work. You can twist your hips while standing at your desktop, or go crazy in the restroom and do several full-fledged dance moves. And when not dancing, walk with a bounce. Jump when you see something reachable. Whistle as you work. Smile while solving problems. These simple gestures stimulate our brain to release endorphins, morphine-like chemicals that make us feel euphoric and exhilarated.
5. Get Drunk. Really? Sure, go ahead and have your favorite drink just like you would do on vacation; Gin and Tonic, Bloody Mary, Pina Colada, or Mango Margarita. Did I mention the non-alcoholic version? How do you get drunk on virgin Pina Colada? Well, it is the inebriation from our endogenous morphine, the endorphins as mentioned above. Also, that state of drunken euphoria can be replicated without the alcohol with some practice. Try it.
6. Hike at Work. When you run frantically from one patient to the next all-day think of that as an active vacation, as opposed to a leisurely one. Remember the hiking trails in the Grand Teton Mountains that you climbed last summer or that sight-seeing marathon you did in Europe. You felt tired the next day, but you still talk about it with excitement, as opposed to whining about it. Do the same thing about the aches and pains felt at work.
7. Smile at the Grumpy Ones. When you get unpleasant customer or a co-worker, just think of that grouchy person you encountered during your vacations in the past. I am sure you have had your share of them during your vacations. See, work is not that different from a vacation after all!
8. Eat for Free. How can you do that? Well, I can eat for free in the physician lounge. I can have salads, pasta, veggie burger, banana, orange, peanut butter, coffee, iced tea, Diet Coke, and Cookies for free too. Find and use such freebies at your work. If you can’t find such freebies, steal. Just kidding. Worst case, tell your spouse to pack something for you from home, while you do the same for your spouse. Keep the contents a surprise to maximize anticipation and excitement.
9. Work at Your Leisure. It is possible. You just have to look for it and find it. When I get called to see a stable patient, who needs a consult, I shall see the patient at my convenience. I won’t run there right away. Also, I schedule open blocks in my appointment book so that I can take a break from work whenever I want to.
10. Take Siestas at Work. I love taking them during vacation. Well, replace them with a strategically placed power nap of about 10-20 minutes. “I don’t have time for that.” Well, there are times during your vacation too that you have to try hard to find time for a nap. Work is no different.
Did I forget anything? Will you give these tips a try this coming week?