The first Monday after the summer holiday. The absolute dread of having to get out of bed and get ready to go to work. A week of overcaffeinating yourself to stay awake, missing the sea, the soothing sound of the waves (but not the sun, it’s still 39 degrees Celsius in Cyprus), the food, the daytrips, reading, writing, swimming, your friends, your family, all the free time you felt guilty about (Mental Health Mondays – 6. The guilt of doing nothing) and desperately thinking of ways to prolong your annual leave.
Why are summer holidays or any holidays for that matter never enough?
Maybe because most of us don’t spend much time resting or having fun? Or perhaps we don’t have enough time during our hectic daily routine and work life to enjoy ourselves or catch up with friends and loved ones as much as we’d like to because ‘we are always busy’.
It made me wonder how humans came up with this work model. Who decided that the majority of us need to work about 340 days out of 365 a year (taking into account that we get about 21 days of leave and 4 bank holidays on average) for 50 years until we retire, old and exhausted?
It’s a cliche but we should work to live and not the other way around.
I hope in the future I can change that for myself and for others.
I’m not sure what can ease the post holiday blues until then, for me what helps at the moment is planning mini-holidays or day trips once or twice a month, have something to look forward to. How do you cope?
“Il dolce far niente” Italians infamously say. The sweetness of doing nothing, the ability to completely and utterly enjoy and savour each moment, the pleasure of being idle.
Why and how have we lost this ability to enjoy our free time? Why do we feel guilty about it instead? I had this very discussion with my wonderful friend and kindred spirit Marithea a few days ago, whilst catching up after almost a year. ‘I have an idea, why don’t you write about it on your next blog?’ she suggested and it couldn’t come at a better time.
I’ve taken two weeks off work to relax, rest and recharge before the September madness and I think I managed to do that for just one or two days. I spent the rest of the time doing everything else, shopping, going to a pottery workshop, catching up with friends, a few days away with my crazy family and a lot of thinking about my next career step, as well as feeling guilty I haven’t made any videos or written anything in a while. I barely made time to read, write, play the guitar, or just sit and listen to music.
Even when I try to relax some weekday evenings, after a long and busy day at work, I feel guilty. I feel this deeply rooted shame for my inability to read a book or stare at a screen again after more than 8 hours of screen time, or even have clear thoughts and make sensible decisions about anything.
Why is that? It’s what’s commonly known as productivity anxiety. We humans have the innate obsession to get things done and be creative ALL the time, something we all struggled with during the pandemic when our options were severely limited. Surely, as soon as we could get out, most of us got even more obsessed with being productive, which is incredibly unhealthy. Our bodies and brains need rest and idle time, to be able to function fully and correctly.
Maybe the 8 hours of work, sleep and play model of the First Industrial Revolution was an improvement on the 12-14 hour day shifts, but none of us really works for just 8 hours a day. Most people work for 9-10 hours a day taking into account commuting and lunch break. By the time you get home, cook, clean and prepare for the following day, (unless you are one of the lucky ones who have help or someone else does the house chores for you) that’s it, the day is over and your brain is already overheating.
We need to learn to make time to rest and have fun, our whole life can’t be just work. And workplaces should accommodate human needs to the highest degree possible. We need to work to live, not live to work, otherwise what’s even the point? Retired old and exhausted at the age of 65 (if it doesn’t get higher by the time I retire), desperately trying to squeeze as many life experiences and joy as possible in the few years I have left? No, thank you.
So, I’m going to try harder to make time for rest and relaxation. How do you manage your free time?
My grandma Eleni used to work as a cleaner at a psychiatric hospital, raising three children on her own. My grandpa Costas was a shephard and after the 1974 invasion a factory worker providing for his wife and their 5 children.
My dad has had two jobs since he was 20 years old, and my mum worked on and off, focusing on looking after us most of her life. They both spent the last 40 years making sure my sisters and I have everything we needed. And they absolutely and utterly succeeded, with no shadow of a doubt.
We might not have had the most expensive cars or clothes, or holidays abroad, but we had a comfortable childhood and teen years, making cherishing memories, holidays in Cyprus with family and friends and endless support, due to their hard work and love. We were always bought new clothes once or twice a year, there was always plenty of food on the table, we were all bought cars to be able to drive to uni and we all studied.
My parents were always stressed about money, as you could imagine, as their parents had no money to help them . They were worried they might not have enough to look after us. My dad still gets anxious about it. We grew up appreciating what we have because we knew first hand how hard it is to get it.
I’d have never been able to study in the UK if it weren’t for my parents. When I finally graduated and started working and looking after myself, I worried about money from day 1. I learned how to prioritise my needs, what I could spend on what and learned to manage, so I didn’t run out of money. I would hate to ask my parents who already did so much for me, I already felt bad enough I couldn’t help them financially as much as I’d liked to. I did waste some money over the years but most of the time I managed.
When I lived in the UK for 10 years, I always paid my rent and bills on time, I got to travel a bit in Europe, I watched plays and musicals, went around the country, bought myself what needed, ate out with friends often, and although I lived a comfortable life, I always worried about money.
Living in Cyprus, earning significantly less than I did in the UK, not being able to save much, restricted to what I can spend on myself and my personal, social, mental and emotional needs, on travel or anything else I’d like, has intensified that worry and anxiety.
What I wouldn’t give to wake up one day and not worry about money, my parents housing situation, about paying the electricity bills or worrying when I’d afford a new car, or go out for fancy dinner, to be able to book the more expensive hotel I’d like or book tickets to Latin America, or buy a new laptop and not having to save up for months (or years) first.
Money doesn’t bring happiness, but only if you have everything you need and you don’t worry about it. It may not bring happiness but it can surely take away large part of (my) anxiety and worries.
When I was younger I felt ashamed I worried about money, I tried to hide my financial situation from friends and colleagues. But struggling or asking for help is nothing to be ashamed of. We were not all born in wealthy families, and for some of us life is harder and things don’t come easy. It made us stronger though, we learn how to live with little and appreciate what we have. So if you also worry about money, just know you are not alone.
I hope you and I and everyone who struggles one day we have enough money not to worry about it but even if we don’t, let’s talk about it, share our experiences and help each other, and try as much as we can not to stress about it. Easier said than done, I know… but let’s try anyway!