I recently had a conversation with a close friend about places we have both traveled and the interesting observations we each took away from our travels. Eighteen years ago my friend had the wonderful privilege of vacationing in France. She found French culture romantic, relaxing and at times even dreamy. Parisians drank red wine in glass carafes with brunch, walked almost everywhere, frequented the Louvre and noshed on the most delicious breads, cheeses and pastries she had ever tasted. What was not to love?
My friend shared the following details: Shopping in the quaint French villages was fun and unique. As she and her mom shopped, especially in the smaller villages, she began to notice that the shop owners had some things in common. Almost all of them were friendly. Most of them had well-behaved dogs they brought to work each day. But more than seeing dogs obediently sitting inside every shop window, something else struck her about these shop owners. In all of the villages she roamed, every shop seemed to close for AT LEAST one hour every day.
Each day at lunch time they put signs in their windows, locked their doors and enjoyed an hour for lunch. Moreover, some of them closed for two or three hours. When she asked one of the shopkeepers about this, my friend was told she took at least an hour every day for lunch. She sometimes took a nap after eating–thus the two to three hour closure each day.
As someone who previously took maybe ten minutes to eat lunch while completing paperwork and listening to voicemails, this routine astounded me…yet also sounded completely WONDERFUL. As I have grown older and read more, I now know how little vacation time Americans takes. We also have longer workdays than most industrialized societies. But at what cost?
Many of us feel stressed, overworked and “burned out.” We dream of island vacations, shorter work days and real lunch breaks. I recently had an executive friend who works long, demanding hours tell me that when he retires he is going to repeatedly run over his smartphone with his car and then backpack the Appalachian Trail.
Macro self-care such as island vacations, exercise, eating nutritious foods and spending regular time with supportive friends is helpful and reduces feelings of stress, anxiety, depression and burnout. But what if we focused more on micro self-care? I know we cannot all move to new countries where people work less and play more. But, what if we made small changes that over time resulted in a more centered, peaceful and energized life? What if we walked just 15 minutes each day? Journaled once a week? Or met a friend for dinner once a month?
I cannot help thinking that if we focused more on micro self-care—like the French– we would feel less dependent on macro self-care. When it comes to micro and macro self-care we should be doing things daily, weekly, monthly and yearly to nourish our minds, bodies and spirits.
If you are struggling with depression or anxiety or feeling stressed or burned out, a licensed mental health counselor can help you. An Orlando individual, couples, family or child therapist can provide the support and expertise you need to begin the journey to living your best life now. Please contact Life Enhancement Counseling Services today at 407-443-8862 to schedule an appointment.