Working on—and worrying about—our challenges shouldn’t be a 24 / 7 job.
Posted in , Jul 6, 2018
One of my favorite summer movies is the 1991 comedy, What About Bob? Bill Murray plays a psychiatry patient, Bob Wiley, who follows his therapist, played by Richard Dreyfuss, on vacation to Lake Winnipesaukee, New Hampshire. Bob heads north because he is afraid to be without the support of his frequent therapy sessions.
Hearing Bob’s anxieties, the doctor’s advice is pat but profound—while I’m away, why don’t you take a vacation from your problems?
Of course, Bob takes the suggestion hilariously seriously, choosing to vacate his problems in the doctor’s own backyard. But that phrase—“take a vacation from your problems”—has always resonated with me, all comedy aside.
There’s a fine line between living in denial of our problems and taking a break from being weighed down by them. In denial, we pretend there’s nothing wrong, nothing going on that we need to solve, no challenges to our inner peace and happiness.
But when we “take a vacation from our problems,” we acknowledge and own our challenges while choosing to step away from them for a period of time. Problems, however you define them in your life, can occupy your thoughts to an unhelpful degree, leading you to spiral into worried rumination.
And even the best problem-solvers among us can’t be wrestling issues to the ground all day, every day. Which is why during summer vacation season, I highly recommend scheduling a vacation from your biggest challenges.
Here’s what such a “vacation” looks like to me:
1. It’s Short but Sweet
Few of us can afford to walk away from, for example, a financial stress for a month or even a week. But setting a boundary of a 24-hour period when you are not chasing a solution to your problem can help refresh you for the decisions ahead.
2. It’s Non-Negotiable
If a friend tempts you to discuss your problem, if an article pops up on your social media feed or if a worried thought floats into your mind, you need to be firm, just as you (hopefully) would be if the boss called during a physical vacation: “Sorry, I can’t talk about this right now. I’ll touch base when I’m back from vacation!”
3. It’s Purposeful
At the end of your scheduled problem-vacation, take some time to reflect on what the space has shown you about the problem. Perhaps it’s not actually as big and scary as you thought. Maybe a new approach or solution comes to your mind. Or maybe you just feel more rested and ready to face it anew.
Would you consider taking a vacation from your problems? What would that look like for you?
In 2001, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I wasn’t a good candidate for chemo. I took tamoxifen instead and gave my trouble to God—just as Dr. Peale suggested in his book, "Thought Conditioners". Since then I’ve remained cancer free. -Guideposts Magazine reader