I am obsessed with The Crown on Netflix. I’m finding the show is teaching me more than history, it’s also providing some life lessons like how to gain perspective. It’s also providing a perspective on a lifestyle and people I would otherwise dismiss as “nothing like me.”
But they are just like you and me. (Except with enormous wealth and unimaginable privilege.)
They want to be loved, have unwanted obligations and responsibilities, and, of course, the worry of what others think of them.
As I binge-watched the fourth season over the weekend, I learned a thing or two about putting my cares aside whilst on holiday, because they will be waiting for me when I return. Even if the exact stressor isn’t there when I return, something else will inevitably take its place. So, in the meantime, it’s best to take the opportunity to relax.
Relaxtion = Opportunity for Perspective
There is a scene in Episode 2 between Princess Margaret and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher that illustrates this concept beautifully. The Prime Minister has been invited to Balmoral (the Queen’s country retreat) for a weekend holiday. Thatcher is astounded to learn that the royals actually spend their time downtime… relaxing.
Thatcher had brought along suits and skirts, not “outdoor shoes” or casual clothing. In her suitcase, she had also toted along important work to discuss relating to the significant issues facing the country and its citizens.
None of those issues were front of mind for the Queen or her family. The intent of this weekend was to spend time away from stressors or difficult situations.
When Thatcher decides to skip out on an opportunity to go stalking with the Queen, Margaret takes issue with Thatcher’s intense work ethic.
Princess Margaret: Sometimes, time off is the most sensible course of action.
Margaret Thatcher: I’m not best suited to time off. It gives me no pleasure.
Princess Margret: It might give you something more important than that: perspective.
Oh snap, Princess Margaret!
For a woman who never had done a hard days’ work in her life, she is spot on.
Time away from stressful situations is EXACTLY what most of us need, we need to gain perspective. Instead, we something in our brain convinces us otherwise, and we decide to power through.
“I can rest when XYZ is done/over/leaves.” — Is usually what we tell ourselves.
I Used To Think: “If I don’t do it, nobody else will…”
My work ethic and mindset tend to resemble Thatcher’s; someone, somewhere needs me and I have promised to be there and/or solve a problem. My high Responsibility strength tends to take over in its basement form to convince me that if I don’t do something, nobody else will. (I have blogged about my struggle with this particular strength.)
This was a huge hurdle for me while I was burned out, not to mention a major contributor to my burnout. The ability to gain perspective on my problems and stress was also a foreign concept.
Would taking more breaks, ending my day sooner, understanding that every problem doesn’t deserve a solution – would these things have saved me from burnout? How would my relationship with my job and my clients been different? Would it have improved the quality of my work?
It’s always easier to look back and be critical of the person you were 5 minutes ago, 5 days ago, or 5 years ago.
Princess Margaret’s advice is solid for anyone, at any point in their life and career. Maybe this is why Queen Elizabeth has been able “to Queen” well into her 90s?
The problems we left on our desks on Friday will still be there to fire us up on Monday. And, if it’s not the same problem, there will always be a different one to take its place.
If you haven’t given your body and mind the opportunity to rest, to gain perspective, it makes those problems on Monday more difficult to solve because you lack the energy and perspective to effectively handle them.
What If Your Job Has Life or Death Consequences?
Some of us work in industries with life or death consequences if we don’t show up to work. (I would put much of the Queen’s responsibilities in that category, but… ) In the pet care industry, my job was 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I couldn’t shut the doors at 5pm on Friday and come back at 9am on Monday. Those animals required my assistance and attention every, single day.
In order to curb my burnout, I had to get creative with my rest. I had to:
- Plan and protect certain hours of day for sleep and/or relaxation
- Plan relaxing, stress-free activities on a regular basis
- Say no to work and clients that wasn’t a fit or stressed me out
- Schedule days off – and take them – in advance
- Do the mindset work required to think differently about my time off looking differently than everyone else’s
Perspective Helps You Make Better Decisions
It’s tough to pull back and get perspective. In my case, I think I feared what I would see in myself or that others would perceive me as not taking my job seriously.
What I found out: my clients cared about my well-being and the perspective I got on stressful situations was incredibly helpful. I learned what was worth stressing out about (almost nothing) and what was not.
For more information on dealing with burnout, overwhelm, or stress, check out my YouTube Channel.
Learn how creating boundaries will help you find the time to relax in my book, Stop Being A Doormat.