Tree carving on Lesness Heath

Back to work, or not…

Today should be the first working day of the year after the Christmas break, but not this year. I've taken an extra week off and it feels good, even if I haven't had it yet.

Extending my end of year break from two to three weeks has given me a really good chunk of time to fully unwind and recuperate. I like three week holidays, not that I’ve had loads, in fact, I’ve only had one previously. Back in 2019, our family holiday took us to Florida, and the extra to stay for the third week was minimal, when considering the cost of a fortnight only. With a two week holiday, it usually takes me the first few days to unwind, to get into the holiday mood. I also spend the last few days subconsciously planning my return to work. That leaves me with about nine days of real holiday time. Nothing to complain about, many people don’t get that much.

However, both that Florida holiday and this Christmas break, the moment I ‘clocked off’ I was in holiday mode. With the family holiday, I put this down to 18 months of planning, paying and anticipation – along with the fact we went with another family who was just as excited as we all were. This time it was quite different, but there were similar patterns. I’d booked two weeks off and it was only a few days prior to finishing for Christmas that I made the decision to take the extra week. I was extremely tired, we’d finished a big project and, along with my manager, thought it was a good idea to use the extra time for a proper break.

I intended to spend time with my family, but there were no expectations or pressure from them. Plus, as we were still in the middle of a pandemic I couldn’t make many plans outside of my home. Luckily for me, the moment I shut down Slack, I was in holiday mode. It was a binary moment, an instant switch from work Dereck to holiday Dereck.

Thinking back, I was definitely influenced by the DO:Pause workshop I attended a couple of months back. My approach to the break was to pause, take time out and regroup. I’d also been considering the possibilities of a sabbatical too, to find some time for me. To try doing more by doing less, putting into practice all that I’d been learning from the workshop and the books I’ve been reading. I purposely didn’t plan any projects or set any goals for this time off, which I think really helped me slip into holiday mode quickly and thoroughly enjoy my time. I’ve spent a lot of time outside walking. Both on my own with just my thoughts, an audiobook or podcast and with family. We’re lucky to have some woodland not too far from us, which made the walks much more interesting. I’ve also been reading and writing loads too, which are two things I’ve always struggled with, and if anyone had said I’d voluntarily spend my time doing those things I would have laughed at them, but I’ve found enjoyment in them. This time away from work was much needed, oh, and I’ve still got another whole week to enjoy. Three week holidays, they’re thee future. 

Latest thoughts

Mental Health Week: How photography helped me

During the second half of 2017, I hit a psychological wall. Not suddenly, it had been building for a while. I’d lost interest in almost everything outside of my family. At work, everything was going fine, but I was on autopilot. I was struggling to understand what was going on. I no longer wanted to socialise, go to car shows, build cars, make photographs, paint or cycle – all things that had been a massive part of my life up until then. Was it burn out? Mid-life crisis? All I knew was that I felt sad and unable to find joy in any of my interests.

Thinking about time moving forward

Having free days, for three weeks, has allowed me to appreciate the the enjoyment of not being beholden to a schedule. Not having to think about when the next Zoom call is lifts a massive weight from my mind.

What if… I stayed home?

What if I didn’t return to work next week, could I cope with the situation? Would I be able to handle not working and what might happen if I took the decision to pause for longer?