I can’t remember the last time I took a vacation day from work to just sleep in. Don’t get me wrong, I love sleeping in and ideally I would sleep in every day, but I’ve always used my vacation days to go on a trip to another city, town or country. Even when I return from vacations, I plan to return to work the next day—despite the fact my flight might not arrive until midnight. I’m the type of person who is always exhausted and always coining the phrase “I need a vacation from my vacation!”

Many consider a life jam-packed with social events and having a busy social life as an ideal way to live. Surrounding ourselves with friends, family and co-workers at all times seems like a way to keep ourselves happy, social and in-tune with what’s going on around us. But when does the extravagant social and party lifestyle become too much for us to handle?

My busy lifestyle means that I sleep in intervals throughout the day to preserve my energy. Every day (like clockwork), I fall asleep on the bus on the way to work, sometimes fall asleep at lunch when reading on a picnic table outside my work, and always fall asleep on the bus on the way home. I drink a lot of caffeine, I stuff myself with protein and yet I can’t seem to find enough hours in the day to nod off. Most recently, I was even able to fall asleep while standing up in a crowd of thousands of people while at a music festival. People ask me what night’s sleep I’m catching up on and I’ll answer something like “Umm…I think I’m still trying to catch up on November 2011 and go from there…”

I’m very fortunate to have a large group of friends in the Toronto area and also where I’m from in Halifax, Nova Scotia. I can honestly say that my friends are what keep me from going crazy most of the time (although sometimes they do encourage me to be a little bit crazier). However, after one year of living on my own in a bachelor apartment in downtown Halifax, I realized how much I needed and craved alone time for solitude and to truly be able to relax and let go of all life’s worries and expectations. To call myself an introvert would not be right, because I find myself to be a mix between an extrovert and introvert. I’m thankful for all the beautiful people in my life, but sometimes I just need to shut off the world and barricade myself behind closed doors for a while and not talk to anyone. This is something I’ve felt guilty about for a long time, because I want to be sure to appreciate and take advantage of all opportunities that are passed my way. I also suffer from a distinct social disease called FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out), where I’m afraid NOT to attend an event because I may miss the night that people are raving about for the next year or so. Readers, please alert me as soon as a cure for FOMO hits pharmacy shelves.

One night earlier this week, I laid down into my comfortable fluffy bed and wrapped myself up in my duvet as I exhaled. I laid there and thought about how incredible my long weekend had been, hanging out with my best friends during a road trip to Montreal. Those thoughts were immediately followed by trying to remember the last time that I didn’t have somewhere to travel to on the weekend, or a friend visiting from out of town, or a birthday for a friend to celebrate all weekend. As wonderful as all these events have been, I felt claustrophobic just thinking about the craziness I’ve created in my life by filling my calendar to the brim. So, I decided to take a few moments and plot out what I would do if I had an entire day where I was home alone, shut off my cell phone and ignored all forms of social media, and just took time to myself to fully relax. I thought about what breakfast I would eat, what book I’ve been dying to read but keep putting off, and even movies that I’ve been meaning to see. I remembered my favourite wine that I never buy because the price tag is a bit high and I never feel like treating myself to it. I have a spa in my building downstairs that I haven’t even glanced in that I’ve been meaning to try out. After thinking about all of my favourite forms of relaxation, I made myself a solemn promise. I will take a vacation day off work sometime within the next few months and I’ll spend it exactly like that. It will be my day to unwind and enjoy the simple pleasures in life. Shouldn’t we all be planning a day like this for ourselves at least once a year? A day where we fully indulge and enjoy the life we have created for ourselves in a quiet manner?

When women become mothers, they’re expected to spend every waking moment with their new bundle of joy. A lot of women find this natural and self-pleasing, but others struggle saying goodbye to the time they used to have to themselves that they may have taken for granted. As someone who does not plan on having children for a few more years, I try to ensure that I appreciate both the time I have to be with friends and laugh over a glass of Pinot Noir, and also the time I have to rejuvenate and spend solo while I can. Women often become caught up in doing things to make those around them happy—whether it’s their friends, families, spouse, children or co-workers—that they forget to take time for themselves and self-appreciate. To the husbands out there that are reading this very article: Probably the best gift you could give your wife would be giving them a “Self-retreat” day where you surround them with all their favourite things and refuse to let them lift a finger. Trust me, they will thank you.

Another method of forcing yourself to relax and enjoy some private “me-time” is to deploy one very notable statement when others badger you to join in on their plans: “No.” OK, you’re welcome to switch it to “No, thank you” if you plan to show off your politeness, but just keep in mind that you’re allowed to turn down social invites and that most of the time people don’t even ask for an explanation. Other than simply turning down invitations, you can choose to attend for a specific amount of time, putting in the appearance and then heading home to relax. In my own experience, I’ve found that method to fail because before I knew it, I was dancing on someone’s coffee table and the clock was indicating it was 3 a.m.

All in all, ensure that you appreciate each and every person you have in your life, and that you spend time with them showing them how much you value them and need them around you. On the flip side, don’t feel bad if you have to take some time off every now and then and recharge. Life is about the moments you enjoy and the people you choose to have around you, just don’t forget that you should be one of those people you give appreciation to as well.

image: Cami Leal (Creative Commons BY)