05/10/20, Emily McKerchar

Holiday Enlightenment

Wellbeing, holidays, self care

It is the start of September and the reality is I should have been lying on a beach in France for two weeks, eating delicious food and soaking up a ton of vitamin D, instead I am in the car driving to Skye for 5 nights. I can cope with that after all France simply wasn’t an option for us to travel to, life, as we know, is different, and having visited Skye last year I have to say it is hands down one of the most magical places I have ever been to!

What I cannot cope with is the fact that I am sitting in the car feeling exhausted, stressed, anxious, sleepy, weepy, generally run down and my inner critic is giving me a mental beating!

Great start to a holiday…

And I am thinking (well over-thinking actually) ‘how the hell did I get in this state? I mean holidays are meant to be fun, pure unadulterated switch-off time, aren’t they?  I am so frustrated I have waited so long for this holiday and it is my first week off all year’.


Oh, hang on what did I just say?


“It is my first week off all year” ok so perhaps therein lies the problem…

As an avid traveler holidays are a key part of my life, they are what I chose to spend my well-earned money on, I love experiencing new places, cultures and indulging in a fair bit of people watching - glass in hand of course! This year we had plans to visit Valencia, Cinque Terre, and Archachon all on our ever-growing list of places to visit. But as I said earlier I am ok with not traveling abroad and I have been so fortunate to have a couple of long weekend staycations, one e-biking in the Highlands and the other Glamping in a Hobbit House in Braco.  Highly recommend both by the way!

The key point of my blog though is that this year I have just carried on, ploughed through the year without a second thought that a proper holiday might be a good idea to re-charge the batteries. And my question to myself is why? In a normal year I would have taken regular holidays so why have I chosen to deprive myself of some re-energising, rejuvenating, and much-needed time off?

Well the answer to that goes something like this…

I have been working reduced hours since April so really I have several free days each week, in fact, I get a long weekend each week so how on earth can I complain when many of my colleagues are working 5 days per week?

Reality - non-working days are not holidays, they are non-working days and the problem is I am filling them with work anyway = guilt!

As a Leader, I need to put 100% into my work to support the survival of our business, so it is better if I just keep doing that, it is not appropriate to take time off = guilt! (just for the record that is my own inner critic speaking to me and not the instruction of my boss!)

Reality – My productivity is reduced, I am cracking on, pushing forward but am I present and focused? In truth probably less so.

I don’t need a holiday, I am fine, I AM FINE

Reality – I am not fine!

Ok so, why I am writing this all down in a blog? Well firstly I already feel a lot better for being honest about my experience and secondly, I fully suspect that I am not alone in this.  And actually, if I am being completely honest with myself taking proper holiday timeout is only the presenting issue, the simple truth is I have neglected my own self-care over the last 6 months and I have just paid a heavy price for that.

So, what are my key takeaways from this experience? Well firstly give yourself permission to switch off completely, your brain deserves it, your body deserves it. Secondly, bring some kindness to your daily life, you deserve it, this is a tough gig and self-care is integral to maintain a sense of balance and perspective as a Leader and as a human being.

But my biggest takeaway is a reminder to myself that Leadership is not all about looking after others

Being a compassionate Leader starts with how you treat yourself. Self-care is Leadership, it is Leadership of self, and if you put yourself at the bottom of the list who are you really fooling?

And am I practicing what I am preach?

Pretty much yes with the odd glitch now and then! I have just started an 8-week Mindfulness Course and am already seeing some great benefits from it. I recently got a bike and I am enjoying exploring Edinburgh’s cycle paths with my ‘urban’ helmet on, yes there is such a thing and I look like Penelope Pitstop! I am engrossed in a book called ‘Tools for Slow Living’ which is a fab de-stressor. I am planning more day trips to experience new experiences, the last one being to St Abbs which was an incredible place to explore and I have booked a lovely cozy cabin in Loch Tay for a long weekend at the end of November. Ultimately, I am trying to do things that will allow my mind to rest and switch off more readily and perhaps more importantly I am giving myself permission for this to happen.

Oh, and just to round off the story when I stood at the top of the Old Man of Storr in Skye on a bright, sunny day looking at our incredible country I felt amazing and grateful! #selfcare

Check up on your own wellbeing

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