I had so much anxiety this weekend," a client will share with me during a Monday session. "I had been feeling so good for the past couple of weeks, but this weekend I seemed to have taken five giant steps backward."
"Tell me about your weekend," I say.
"Well, my boyfriend and I went out with some friends on Friday night and I had a couple of drinks. Then we went to a wedding on Saturday and drank a bit too much. I woke up Sunday morning feeling pretty crappy. And I spent the rest of Sunday with the familiar pit of anxiety in my stomach. All of my familiar mental obsessions and ruminations came barreling into my brain: What if I don't love my boyfriend enough? What if I'm gay? You know how it goes."
"Yes, I do. Any idea what triggered it?" I'll ask, although I already know the answer.
"Probably the alcohol."
It's astonishing to me how many times I've had this conversation with countless clients. And the solution seems simple: if alcohol is scientifically known to stir up anxiety, then eliminating or significantly reducing its consumption would reduce anxiety. Yet when I offer this suggestion, I'm often met with resistance.
It's not like when I suggest reducing or eliminating sugar, gluten, or grains, all of which are also known to contribute to anxiety and depression for some people. Those aren't easy to eliminate, but they don't occupy the same social status in our culture that alcohol does.
We live in an alcohol-addicted culture. Alcohol is used as a social lubricant, and has become such a crutch for most people to feel comfortable socially that they would feel lost without it. The paradox is that while alcohol serves as a social lubricant and works in the moment to stave off anxiety, the aftermath of alcohol consumption, especially for highly sensitive people, is an anxiety hangover the next day, and often for several days.
A 2014 Oxford Economics Assessment of Paid Time Off in the U.S. showed 42% of employees with paid time off finished the year with unused days, leaving an average of 8.1 days unused.
Small business owners are especially bad at taking time away. According to the 2013 Sage Reinvention of Small Business Study, 43% of small business owners are taking less vacation time than five years ago.
The fact that we don't use all of our vacation time isn’t all that surprising. After all, getting away for a few days or weeks can be overwhelming when it feels like stepping away from the office will create a painful backlog of work when you return.
But what if stepping away from the daily grind made you better at your job?