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Chill out or you'll burn out

Over lunch, I complained to my colleagues that I was spending too much time on work.

One casually remarked, "Even if you don't have work, you'd still be busy doing something. You gotta chill out, lady."

She and the other colleague started talking about their holiday plans.

In Europe, it's normal to get five to six weeks of vacation. With high income taxes, it makes more sense to get time off than more pay. Talking about your last holiday or your next holiday is as common as talking about the weather.

In the US, I noticed, it's taboo to talk about holidays. First of all, you don't get many. Secondly, it's perceived as showing off. It's harder to take big chunks of leave.

When the big boss took two weeks off last year - it was the talk of town. My colleagues believe to have a proper holiday means at least a week.

The problem with taking any amount of time off is that you have more to catch up with when you come back. News don't stop when you're away.

One of my workaholic friends made the excuse that if she took too much time off, she might lose her powerbase. In such a political environment, nobody wants to be away for too long.

So how does one chill out?

They talked about camping. Will that ever become fashionable again? Just like having children, they said. The movie stars are having children - and that's become glamourous. I think upscale camping could become popular. British cuisine has become upmarket in London - the designer variety. So why not camping?

For me, chilling out is only possible if I let everyone in the world know that I have an OFF sign. And don't expect me to catch up quickly when I return. To properly chill out, I need to switch off completely. I can only do so if there are no deadlines looming overhead, no expectations of any sort from anybody.

And if I don't chill out soon? I shall definitely burn out. And if I do, it could take months if not years to recover. Yes, burning out is not a risk I or anyone else should take.

19 June 2001