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The Big Picture
Rebecca "Becky" Coates Nee, a veteran TV news anchor/reporter, is a professional life/career coach. Check out her website at to take the coachability test, subscribe to her free "Beyond the Box" newsletter and to find out if you're an adrenaline junkie.

Vacation Anxiety
By Rebecca Coates Nee
August 27th, 2001

Brokaw did it. Bush did it. Even Regis took a short one this summer.
Still, nothing seems to get broadcasters more riled up than an extended vacation. The break that's supposed to recharge our batteries and revive our weary spirits seems to be getting a bad rap.

In many newsrooms, vacations - especially those that last more than a week - are viewed with a combination of envy, disgust and speculation about what the absent employee is really doing and whether they're really coming back.

Our Protestant news work ethic basically goes like this: One day of rest is good for the soul, but more than two days off means we're not team players. The standard two-week vacation policy in the U.S. is downright skimpy when compared to other countries. Europeans average four weeks off a year - in Germany, some employees get up to 15 weeks away!

With all that pressure on us to make the most of our short R & R, it's no wonder we seldom return with the vim and vigor we hoped to discover. Instead, most folks come back wanting another week off to recover from the one they just had.

Why? Vacations don't work because the problem gets off the plane, boat or hot air balloon with us. When people are in the habit of buzzing around, meeting deadlines and feeding off adrenaline, slowing down is uncomfortable in any setting.

While I was still recovering from PTSD (post television stress disorder), my vacations were as tedious a Gary Condit stake out.

I began every day by back-timing to our dinner reservation. I would have one hour to work out, 35 minutes to shower, 25 minutes to eat, two hours to HAVE FUN, etc. The skills I developed as a reporter helped me investigate the best places to stay and eat, but they taught me nothing about the lost art of relaxation.

It didn't take long for my mentor coach to diagnose my problem: I was a compulsive planner. I blame the addiction on twelve years of daily deadlines and a father with a military background. My coach's solution: go one week without planning.

I could get up and decide what I was going to accomplish that day - but I couldn't plan for the next day or the day after that.

Enduring that week was a struggle, but it showed me how much time I wasted anticipating the future. That meant very little of me was left to enjoy or appreciate the present.

So how can you get more out of your much-needed vacations? First, don't wait until you're having a meltdown to take one. Also, try to build a mini vacation into each day by following a relaxing routine you enjoy.

Listen to some entertaining music, go for a walk, take a five minute time out when everyone around you is losing their heads. Stick one of those little pink umbrellas in your espresso. Living a more balanced life throughout the year will help your vacation become a time of leisure, not recovery.