A Beginner's Life

Recovery Time

2 min read
Corbets Waffle Cabin

For the last week, Marisa and I were in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, enjoying the beautiful scenery and of course the skiing.

Early in the trip, a small emergency broke out at work. Despite the best efforts of both my team and our CEO Chris, I had a small panic attack. I found myself distracted for the entire day – checking email constantly, thinking myself in circles, unable to sleep.

By 3am, I was driving myself mad – on one hand, I was worried that I was far away and unable to make the impact I wanted, and on the other hand, I was worried I was going to ruin the rest of the trip with crushing anxiety.

So I followed my own advice, pulled out my phone, and opened Day One. I spent the next hour huddled in the dark, writing every thought that came to my mind about the situation in a diary entry. Different perspectives, mini-issues, and action steps became clear in my mind. I saw the causes of the issue, and the solutions – both quick and long-term.

I had been so tense, I could actually feel myself unwind. I was taking deeper breaths, my brain was slowing down. When I was done, I turned off my phone and fell asleep.

The next day we woke up, ate a big breakfast, and skied the hardest line I’d ever skied. It was a really thrilling experience that reminded me I was alive and there was more to life than just the minutiae of the moment. It sounds weird, but I realized I was breathing again.

It’s not like the issue just went away after that. The rest of the trip I remained aware of it, but I felt in control. I could spend a moment dwelling on it, and then put it away to be there during dinner, reading, or just taking a walk. I had assembled my mental notes, and had put away those feelings that can overtake you in the immediate moment.

The most valuable advice I got during that issue: When you are in your recovery time, be in your recovery time.

If you can’t find the opportunity to recover, you’ll only be further underwater mentally when you return, which makes the vacation mostly useless.

It doesn’t mean urgent situations won’t come up. When they do, take that opportunity to really think, rather than jump into action like you might when on the job. Document the issue, communicate, and lean on your teammates. Both you and your team will be stronger as a result.

Thanks to everyone who gave me advice and supported me in being on vacation. Feels great to be back!

P.S. Every week, I send out a short newsletter with links to my favorite articles. When I write a new essay, that will be included as well. Sign up to get your copy.