78: How to Make the Most of Your Vacation Time

by Coach Jill Farmer and Coach Gabriella Dennery MD | Physician Coaching, Podcast, Work Life Balance

“What it is to make the most of that time off so that you can actually feel recharged and ready to go.” -Coach Gabriella Dennery MD

In this episode, Coaches Gabriella Dennery MD and Jill Farmer share ideas to make sure we make the most of our beloved time off. You plan your vacation months in advance. Then you look forward to it for months. But when it finally comes and you are there, do you find it hard to unwind? Or did you find it hard or stressful to leave everything behind at work when it was time to go? The Coaches are here to help! They want you to get the most out of your vacation. They want you to have fun, rest and recharge. Tune in to hear tips on how to thrive on vacation! 

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Please enjoy the full transcript below

Gabriella: What it is to make the most out of that time off, so that you can actually feel recharged and ready to go?


[DocWorking theme]


Gabriella: Hi, my name is Gabriella Dennery, one of the co-lead life coaches here at DocWorking, and welcome to our podcast. I’m joined here today with my other co-lead, Jill Farmer. Today, we are actually going to talk about something that is near and dear to a lot of people’s heart, is how to make the most out of your vacation time. Not in terms of work, but in terms of getting the rest and the recuperation that you need.


Jill, I know you have a lot of ideas about this, about what it is to make the most out of that time off so that you can actually feel recharged and ready to go. What would be an approach? 


Jill: Well, first of all, I want to say, I really think it’s always really important to recharge your batteries, to mix your metaphor here, refuel your tank, reboot your computer, however you want to look at it during your vacation. It has never been more important than it is right now, because of what physicians, anyone in healthcare has really had to endure over the last 19 months. There’s really no other word, other than endure. You strengthened yourself through resilience and really done amazing things, and totally recognize that. 


A scenario that comes up a lot with my physician clients, is just really emptying the tank coming up to vacation, “I just got to get to vacation, I just got to get to vacation,” and so that they enter vacation with nothing left in the tank. And then, once they get there, it’s kind of hard, people discover, to switch gears. The engine is still revving even though there’s really no gas in it, and now it’s on vapors. And then, it takes a minute, sometimes days, to switch gears and then it feels like it’s time to come back and then come back, there’s this big pile of stuff to do. Well, that can be really challenging.


There’s a few things that we can do that can make vacation be a more effective way to serve us, when you’re just totally parched dry to be able to fill up that tank again. One of the ideas for that is to recognize that whatever challenges or issues are still there before vacation, they don’t all have to be solved and fixed and perfect before you go on vacation. Just like they probably wouldn’t be solved and fixed and perfect if you were there in a given week, because there’s new stuff coming in all the time. I want to just take away the mythology from the pattern perfectionism that everything has to be tied up in a bow and perfect before you leave. You really have to be willing to discipline yourself, to say what is good enough. Is 51% of having what I need to have covered from a health wellness and safety perspective of those that I serve good enough, then that’s okay. That’s one of the first ways that I really want you to depressurize yourself before you head off to vacation. 


Gabriella, what ideas do you have for helping people to get out of that accelerator pedal-to-the-metal mode that they tend to be on, so that they can downshift and be able to rest and relax and rejuvenate?


Gabriella: I can totally relate to this experience of going on vacation and coming back, thinking, “I never went,” because there is too much. The mind is too busy, it’s impossible to relax. Over a week is not enough, to be honest. It doesn’t take hours, it takes days, if not a week, just to get to the point where you can start getting rest. I think everything that you’re suggesting so far, absolutely, you’ve got to be able to be okay with it not being perfect before leaving. At the same time, you want a bit of a plan.


Are there certain notes that you really want to make sure you get done before leaving? Do you want to let your colleagues know when you’re going? Also, set some parameters. If somebody absolutely has to get in touch with you, what are the parameters? What is the time that you allow yourself not to be found? And what times do you say, “Okay, I can be found under these circumstances,” or, “I’m going to look at emails for 10 minutes in the morning or 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes in the afternoon,” and really just be able to be very deliberate about any work-related activity if you absolutely have to. 


I would add one more thing. I found that when I was in clinics, getting to that week of vacation, “Okay, everything will be better after that week, I’ll feel great and everything will be ready to roll.” It never worked. I’ve tried it time and time again, not once that it ever work. One of my good physician friends had a suggestion, and a very good one, and she did this herself. Every other month to go away for a weekend because there’s no way you can rest at home. It just doesn’t happen. So, even if you have a day off or a weekend off, if you can get away as much as you possibly can, to be in a space where you won’t be so tempted to plug back in, to get on the cell phone, to get on the computer, but to enjoy nature, to be with family, to laugh a little, to have some fun, to engage in some enjoyable activities, and to pepper that throughout the year, as opposed to just bundling it up, waiting for all this wonderfulness and miracle of rest to happen in one week, to be able to give yourself these periodical jumps of rest, or at least pockets of rest throughout the year. That way that week, you can get to maximize that time even better. 


Most important, the last thing I would say, is to have fun, to turn your brain off and to stop being busy overnight. I’m sorry, but that’s impossible. It’d be great to do it, but it’s impossible. So, imagine being able to allow yourself to have fun in different kinds of activities that are not work related but again, keep your mind busy, and get your creativity going, and get your laughing and enjoying yourself and connecting to what’s happening right now. All of these ingredients, I think, can help a lot with preparing for vacation, not just planning for it and letting everybody know and deciding how much time you’re going to save or put aside for a work-related activity, such as catching up on emails a little bit, how much time are you going to dedicate to that. Make sure that you’re deliberate about it, but at the same time preparation for me is giving yourself those little pockets of time off, quality time off, throughout the year, so that somehow that week is not going to be a magical week, it’ll just add to that pocket, it’ll be a bigger pocket of rest, as opposed to the only pocket rest.


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Gabriella: Jill, what do you think about that?


Jill: Yeah, I would agree with you that sometimes we think that there’s going to be a magic wand that gets waved that when we get on vacation, and our brain will design to magically change. Your suggestion is exactly related to it what I said, which is give yourself permission to change channels in your brain, not just to try to pretend that it’ll automatically empty and relax, but be intentional. Try a new fun, physical activity that you haven’t done before, because that’s going to use all the circuitry in your brain to focus on something new, and allow it to change channels. Take a stack of books that you just get lost in. Whatever that is, mystery, detectives, horror, does not matter. Whatever books that you know you get lost in, that you never quite give yourself time to get lost in, take those. That can be a way that you signal your brain, “Hey, we’re switching gears, neural pathways are going in a different direction this week.” I think that’s really important. 


I have a practice when I’m on vacation of starting the day of noticing when I get that little anxiety in my gut of like, “What am I supposed to be doing?” I try to gently grab one wrist with the other, put my hand on my heart, and just breathe through that, and just with a kindness breath to myself, “All is well, I’m in a different place, nothing to worry about.” One of those just kind of quick things, I noticed that quiets me down enough that I can say, “What’s the next best thing I can do right now to bring me joy?” Is it a cup of hot tea on the deck of wherever I’m staying? Whatever that is, just giving yourself permission to shift the sort of reaction action cycle that is very ingrained in our pattern as we’re used to being very driven. I think those are some ways that we can begin to use the time on vacation for that rejuvenation. But I think to your point, it has to be really intentional. 


You’ve said some really good things, to recap what we talked about here. The three things that I think are important that we’ve gathered, is that it’s not going to be perfect before you leave. Let good enough, be good enough. And a little planning. Blending those two things together, a little planning, so you’re real clear where the coverage is, you feel good that those kinds of things are all in place. 


Another thing that you said that’s really important, when it comes to being on vacation is having boundaries in place. When you’re there, what are the things that are clear? So, we have before vacation, not perfect, but a plan, when you’re on vacation, also have a plan for how often. If you feel more relaxed checking your email for 30 minutes a day, then set a timer, and only do it for 30 minutes a day and then let it go until tomorrow. Have fun. Do something that changes the channel in your brain so you’re still active and occupied, but doing it in a different way, which is rejuvenating for you, whatever that is. Reading great books, taking a swim, trying surfing, rollerblading, whatever that is. 


Thirdly, I think you make a really excellent point. Don’t make your vacation do all the work for you [chuckles] in one week. Plan more frequent getaways so that you can do this more often, and you will get better at the transition in and out of time off the more you do it. When you just say, “Okay, now, this is an off weekend. This is a recharge-my-batteries weekend.” You name that for yourself, that’s going to make it easier when you do vacations to have it actually help you switch channels and feel like you come back more replenished. Final thoughts, Gabriella?


Gabriella: I agree 100%. And yes, I’m there with the surfing lessons. Absolutely. Above all, whatever your intention is, have fun in the process. Absolutely, have fun with your time off.


Jill: That’s right. Gabriella and I, sometimes forget this ourselves. I can certainly speak for myself. You deserve to have fun. You deserve to totally relax and feel joy and not be responsible for the world. So, this is our giant permission slip to you. If you need to write it down on paper, you can forge both of our names. Go have fun, let yourself be free, enjoy so that you can come back feeling refreshed and renewed again. 


For DocWorking: The Whole Physician Podcast, I’m Jill Farmer with Gabriella Dennery. 


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Jill Farmer is an experienced physician coach who has been helping doctors live their best lives, increase their success, and move through burnout for well over a decade.

She has delivered keynotes, programs, and training everywhere from Harvard Medical School to the American College of Cardiology.

She has personally coached hundreds of physicians, surgeons, and other busy professionals to help them be at their best—without burning themselves out. Her coaching has supported professionals at places like Mass General Brigham in Boston, Washington University in St. Louis, Northwestern University in Chicago and too many others to list.

Jill wrote the book on time management for busy people. Literally. It’s called “There’s Not Enough Time…and Other Lies We Tell Ourselves” which debuted as a bestseller on Amazon. Her work has been featured everywhere from Inc. to Fitness Magazine to The Washington Post.

Nationally recognized as a “brilliant time optimizer and life maximizer,” Jill will cut straight to the heart of your stress to liberate you from its shackles. She has two young adult daughters. She lives with her husband and their poorly behaved dachshund in St. Louis, MO.

Life Coach Gabriella Dennery, MD OMD is passionate about helping busy physicians rediscover the joy of their calling. She draws on her training as a physician, a musician, and an ordained non-denominational minister in addition to health & wellness and life coaching to offer professionals from all walks of life the benefit of her broad experience and deep insights.

You can find Gabriella as one of the co-creators of STAT: Quick Wins To Get Your Life Back.

The daughter of a psychiatrist mother and a neurosurgeon father, both from Haiti, Gabriella and her five siblings were expected to choose from five noble callings: Medicine, Dentistry, Engineering, Law, or Agronomy (caring for the delicate soil of Haiti).

Gabriella, an innately gifted healer and teacher, chose Medicine and graduated with honors from Howard University College of Medicine, “The Mecca.” Following her residency in internal medicine at Duke University Medical Center, Gabriella moved to New York City to serve as an attending physician and clinical instructor in Harlem and later as medical director and attending physician at SUNY Downstate Bedford-Stuyvesant satellite clinic in Brooklyn.

Her greatest joy as a primary care physician was supporting her patients, shepherding them to Aha moments, and nurturing positive shifts in perspective that measurably improved their health and wellbeing–a strength that makes Gabriella so effective as a coach.

After more than ten years of practicing internal medicine, Gabriella chose to explore the integration of medicine, music, and ministry to promote better health of her fellow physicians by becoming a physician coach. She successfully coaches physicians to prevent and/or navigate through physician burnout, reach career and personal goals, clarify and take actionable steps to achieve their own personal vision, and is well known for helping doctors at all stages of their careers, from students to residents/fellows to practicing physicians. She maintains her work-life balance by playing percussion and violin, composing music, and enjoying a very fun and fulfilling marriage.

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