Needing a break . . .

February 9, 2022

WELL. This week has been rough. At least call is over!

I feel tired and sort of . . . put upon. The past few days, I have been extremely sensitive to people treating me like I am an endlessly giving resource, here to serve them at their whims. I am not sure if this is reality or more of a perception issue. I suspect it’s some of both. That is something to think about and reflect on. Maybe in a future therapy session.

I do think there is something about me that seems to make others a little too comfortable asking me to do things for them. Small but annoying example: texting me (non-medical) questions that are not urgent or could be looked up in other ways. And normally I don’t mind much, or perhaps even notice. But this past week it has felt like just too much. I really need a break. I’m losing my (*$&# 54 times a day and honestly feeling incredibly negative about basically everything.

I plan on taking a deep dive into my calendar and creating a plan to utilize more of my paid leave (PL) time over the next several months. I have about ~3.5 weeks of accumulated PL, and accrue about 29 days per year, so I could take 8-9 weeks off this year and still be fine (esp since I have no more maternity leaves planned in my future!). I am not planning on taking that much, but I could (should!) make sure I am taking more if I am feeling the way I am now.

In other news, Annabel is in the Keys right now (school trip with TWO overnights!).

no faces visible so I figured ok to post! She is somewhere in the back.

Also, we are headed to Disney this weekend! (I suspect this may bother a small minority of readers from a pandemic standpoint. I fully understand and respect if you do not feel ready to take a similar trip, but if reading about others going fills you up with self-righteous rage, I welcome you to find other things to read so that you are not triggered.)

We are vaxed (other than G b/c age), boosted, and feel ready for this. We booked this trip for 2020, cancelled it, and finally rebooked a few months ago (post-Delta and pre-Omicron). I am looking forward to it though it definitely will not be the ‘break’ I am actually craving.


  • Reply Kristina February 9, 2022 at 10:14 am

    Have a wonderful time at Disney. Even if it’s not a break, hope it provides a recharge in some way. I know how you’re feeling all too well. Hang in there and use some of that PTO!

  • Reply Lisa of Lisa's Yarns February 9, 2022 at 10:19 am

    It really sucks when people take advantage of your willingness to help. I feel this way at times, too.

    It definitely sounds like you need some time away from work – like a personal retreat or something like that. I imagine Disney will be fun for your family but probably not restorative for you!

    We are hopefully going to AZ next Wednesday for 5 days to visit my little sister. I am desperate for this getaway but fear one of us will get covid in the next week. It’s been a really cold winter and I feel so cooped up with my kids so I NEED to get away so badly! We are staying at an Airbnb with my parents so they will help out with the kids and babysit so my husband and I can get away for a hike while we are there. Traveling with a 1 and 4yo is not really a “vacation” but the change in scenery/warmer temps are going to be so helpful so I just hope and pray we stay healthy!

  • Reply Kathy February 9, 2022 at 10:22 am

    Have a great time in Disney! We went over Thanksgiving week and it was a blast. Enjoy the time away… it’s well deserved!!!

  • Reply omdg February 9, 2022 at 10:27 am

    Have fun at Disney!

    I frequently feel like I am expected to be this bottomless pit of flexibility and generosity with my time and good will at work, but that this is not something that I am permitted to expect in reciprocation. I think this feeling is quite commonplace, actually, particularly among doctors with non-clinical responsibilities. Not sure what the solution is.

    I also fully endorse taking all of your PL. I just completed 2 grant submissions, and though I am fully expected to work through the PL I have scheduled for myself next week, I do not plan to actually do this. Screw it. I am totally burnt out and I need a break.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger February 9, 2022 at 10:31 am

      TAKE THE BREAK. I think there should be a movement and more attention to having PL (an advertised benefit of our jobs) actually be PL. I definitely don’t feel pressured not to take it, BUT I struggle with getting my expected work done when I take it and truly remain off on those days.

      • Reply Omdg February 10, 2022 at 7:32 am

        Where I work there is verbal support for taking time off, but it is clearly fake, and I know this because one of my mentors told me about how he worked through his vacation (that his wife planned) when he was at my stage of training when I said I was planning on taking a few days with my family in traverse city before a virtual conference last year.

  • Reply Irene February 9, 2022 at 10:32 am

    Have fun at Disney! And please take care of yourself.

    My therapist reminds me frequently that no is a full sentence. I can just say no, full stop. Maybe you can come up with a mantra that helps you not respond to non urgent requests when you are slammed (or at all)?

  • Reply Keren February 9, 2022 at 10:53 am

    Enjoy at Disney, I hope it will be somewhat fun for you as well, at least it’s a chance to clear your head and step away from work.

  • Reply Allison Cunningham February 9, 2022 at 11:02 am

    We went to Disney the last week of January. They do a great job of reminding people to put their mask over their nose and keeping the facilities clean. Get lost in the magic for a minute, it’s good for the soul.

  • Reply Mrs. Candid February 9, 2022 at 11:08 am

    Enjoy the Disney weekend. Also happy that you are planning to utilize your PLs.

  • Reply Elisabeth February 9, 2022 at 11:26 am

    Have a great time at Disney!
    Also – this made me laugh and also want to raise a glass and say “Here, Here”:
    “But if reading about others going fills you up with self-righteous rage, I welcome you to find other things to read so that you are not triggered.)” Amen.

    I hope the trip is great and I hope you get to take A LOT of the paid leave in 2022. You deserve every single day you get, Sarah!

  • Reply Eva February 9, 2022 at 11:46 am

    I’m sorry to hear you get all these demands – and sounds a bit similar to what happens in academia: the Genius Professors block access to them in such a way that the rest of us have to deal with all the work they don’t do in terms of student questions, admin, service… while they go on publishing merrily and reinforcing their Genius status.

    And: 6-8 weeks seems like something every working person should get as time off (and what I get in the Netherlands), but that’s another discussion I guess…

    • Reply TAS February 9, 2022 at 12:10 pm

      @Eva I work on this space too and I’m fried. The emails don’t stop because I’m on vacation so I either work the same number of weekend days when I’m back or work the whole time. The staff have carried everything.Meanwhile most faculty have taught remote classes 2/3 semesters with zero other responsibilities for the past 2 years.

      • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger February 9, 2022 at 1:17 pm

        ” The emails don’t stop because I’m on vacation” yep. the texts and phone calls don’t either.

  • Reply Beth @ Parent Lightly February 9, 2022 at 11:46 am

    I am really working hard to take my full PTO this year, including at least 1 full week…maybe two. I have enough and I find that I REALLY need it right now.

    Also I am sorry to hear about the weight you are feeling re: other peoples’ requests/expectations. In case it helps, I would just like to say that I ignore many, many requests and questions every day. I tell the people on my team how to notify me of an urgent issue, but otherwise I let many emails and messages and texts go unanswered. I also ask my boss frequently about priorities to make sure I’m not missing something important. But there are so many things that just don’t need to be answered by me. I’ve found that if I don’t answer quickly they will move on to someone else…unless I really need to answer in which case they will ask again.

  • Reply Grateful Kae February 9, 2022 at 11:46 am

    That picture of the Keys is gorgeous. I just saw an ad online the other day about a beautiful looking hotel/ resort in the Keys and it had me daydreaming about planning a trip there.

  • Reply K W February 9, 2022 at 11:50 am

    Ugh I’m sorry to hear about the heavy load that you continue to deal with and thank you for the perspective as I can totally relate to so much of what you write about.

    Your text message example reinforced my decision to try and never appear “too available” 😉 For example, I frequently don’t reply to text messages very quickly (except for very close family) or emails either (though I do make an effort to respond to clients the same business day and all others within 24 hours/on Monday for weekend emails). I’d like to think that people have adjusted their expectations to my response times and that they hopefully bother me with fewer trivial requests that they can just figure out themselves. (Of course, I recognize that we’re in different fields of work–I’m an attorney–and so responsiveness expectations may be different.)

    Thinking of you and hang in there!

  • Reply Ashley February 9, 2022 at 11:51 am

    A few months ago Disney would have terrified me. I’m definitely feeling the pandemic fatigue because at this point I’m for all vacations! Hope it is a great time! And definitely use some PTO. Maybe you could have your nanny take the kids home for night when you use a PTO day? Or have her stay and book a hotel for yourself

    • Reply Natasha February 9, 2022 at 8:52 pm

      I second this idea! I have been known to stay at hotel less than an hour from home just to get away by myself.

  • Reply Alyce February 9, 2022 at 11:54 am

    Thoughts about leave:
    – TAKE ALL OF IT. I’ve heard there has been research that shows that a high percentage of people who quit their jobs because they’re burnt out actually do so with annual leave in the bank. No one knows if taking the leave would have changed the outcome, but it certainly begs the question of whether the burn out would have happened had they taken the leave available to them. With eight or nine weeks of leave, you could literally go on a part time schedule without having to take a pay cut. It’s your leave, and you’re entitled to it.
    – Especially given how far in advance doctors are scheduled, it may be helpful to plan in advance how to take the leave. For example, I plan to take off every third Friday for the rest of the year. It’s already on the calendar and incorporated into the schedule. And when I get too frustrated with people or expectations at work, I take a day off. That might be harder/impossible to do with patients, but if that were my situation, I would plan the days off more frequently – like twice a month.
    – Sometimes, I plan to take a day off and still end up working on my individual tasks for part of the day. What I’m really doing is taking a day off of meetings and interruptions – being on leave gives me total license to reject meetings that folks schedule despite my unavailability and ignore calls – and it also allows me to work only as much as I want to. So if I want to quit working at 2 and go to a movie, I can do it. And it’s funny, even though I’m working on my “day off” I find that I’m often reminded on these days that I really do like the substance of my job, when I can do it without constant interruptions, requests from people to do stuff, meetings breaking up my day, etc.
    – It is really really nice to take my leave not for the purpose of a family vacation. Being off when my daughter is in daycare, my husband is working and I truly have no responsibilities – that is deeply luxurious without even leaving the house. Taking a day off of work and just doing what I want to do without any responsibilities – now that is deeply refreshing. I often sleep in, workout during the day, get massages or go to acupuncture or to my fascia stretch therapist (or all of it), or take a bath and groom my nails. Whatever I want! I find that indulging in only what I want goes a long way to counteract the neverending stream of others wants and needs that I get at other times.
    – Also very good, is to invite a girlfriend to come visit! My sister in law visited last week. One of my BFFs from high school and college is coming for three days next workweek and staying with us. I’ll still have to be on mom duty in the mornings and evenings, but we are spending the days going to museums, eating out, going to acupuncture, etc. Again, it’s nice to spend the time with a friend without the parenting responsibilities.

    • Reply KGC February 9, 2022 at 2:16 pm

      @Alyce, your point #4 (you taking a day not for family vacation) is what I refer to as a “magical unicorn day” – when the kids are in daycare, husband is at work, and I’m home NOT WORKING and all by myself. My husband got a little offended the day that he realized that him being at work is an important component (he – wrongly – thought a magical unicorn day just involved the kids in daycare and us home…not so!) I get these occasionally on certain holidays when I’m off and my husband isn’t and they are so amazing and restorative. I usually get takeout sushi and do the same as you – whatever I want!!! I (and SHU and readers) should definitely try to schedule these more, rather than waiting for them to randomly appear 1-2 days a year. They make a big difference in mental health for me.

      • Reply Sunny February 9, 2022 at 8:22 pm

        Yes to the personal days! After the pandemic started I have started taking one day off work every month, while I have childcare. At first my youngest was only in part-time preschool and my other child was in remote school. On my monthly “retreat day” I literally had three hours while one was at school and the other was on her computer and I would go hide upstairs and do stuff like read and take a bubble bath. Even that little bit was very helpful to my sanity. Now it is incredibly nice to have 6 hours or so off while they are in school, and I have time to add in exercise or lunch with a friend and monthly goal planning. I actually don’t tell my husband in advance so he won’t dump any errands on me (you know how things come up last minute and oh hey, since you have the day off.) Sometimes I will tell him later, I took the day off today and he just says oh good for you! I have a recurring day blocked off in my calendar privately marked as “personal retreat day” and if things come up I can change the day but if I didn’t have it scheduled I’d never do it.

  • Reply Rinna February 9, 2022 at 12:08 pm

    Have fun at Disney!! Sounds like a blast, and if others are feeling judgy, well…who really cares? At this point, I think we’ve reached the point of the pandemic (endemic?) where the general rule should be (a) “don’t be an asshole” (so, don’t go places when sick, get vaccinated unless you have a legit medical reason not to, respect other people’s boundaries may be different and try to reasonably accommodate etc,); and (b) make the choices that align with your personal risk tolerance and health/life situation. Also, I’ll join the chorus telling you to come up with a plan to not only use this year’s PTO allotment but also figure out how to chip away at your carryforward balance over the next couple of years. At my firm, we changed the rule last year such that folks had to use up all but 1 week of vacation every year, and we had to literally force some people to take long and/or frequent vacations. Some kicked and screamed but came back way better for it. Plus, from a pure business perspective, no business wants to have to pay departing employees months of accrued vacay if they leave. It’s a win-win, and if it changes t he culture such that people aren’t expected to work all the time, that’s even better.

  • Reply Marie February 9, 2022 at 12:14 pm

    Enjoy your Disney trip! You are a thoughtful and well-informed person — it’s clear you are making the right decision for your family! I’m a big believer in taking the time off you’ve earned to recharge.

    Like KW above, I work to try to not come across as too helpful or too available — I’ve found it can come to be expected rather than appreciated. It definitely takes hard ongoing work, though, to create new boundaries or reshape expectations… something that might be more palatable after some time off.

  • Reply Chelsea February 9, 2022 at 12:59 pm

    I was at Disney last weekend, and they were actually very strict about mask enforcement in every building. You’re probably safer there then pretty much anywhere else in FL right now!

  • Reply Jen February 9, 2022 at 1:24 pm

    I definitely endorse the strategy to use your time off!! Taking even a day is such an underrated way to help manage. It is hard because for most of us the work is still there and it has to be done anyway so sometimes it doesn’t feel worth it. But when you are facing a 30+ year career there’s no reason not to take time …

    We also booked a vacation which feels weird. In Canada there are still many covid restrictions but we are taking the kids skiing in Quebec which still feels like a safe vacation to me. At this point we have do what feels good and reasonable for ourselves. I can’t wait for the week off work!

  • Reply Mommy Attorney February 9, 2022 at 1:36 pm

    I’ve found that because I have a very high level of executive function (you clearly do as well) I often find myself serving as others’ executive functions. This is true both in my family and professionally. It’s tough and there isn’t a great solution. At least at work you can say no (at least in theory).

    Enjoy Disney! We went last Summer and had a wonderful time, although we did miss some of the things that have been dropped due to the pandemic.

    • Reply Sara February 17, 2022 at 11:09 am

      Yes 100% agree with this! I recently had this realization, as well. I am in IT program management and, quite honestly, having a high degree of executive function is part of my job, BUT that doesn’t mean I have to everything. That especially means I need to draw better lines in the sand with family members. My husband has terrible skills in this area and it was becoming increasingly clear he was overly reliant on me for reminders about things…I still have to remind him about stuff, but he uses reminders more on his phone now and I’ve handed 100% (end-to-end) responsibility to him on various things (taking the trash out, bills, scheduling the kids’ appointments). Before, he would totally do a lot of things, but only if he remembered and/or I asked him to do it.

  • Reply Kate Smith February 9, 2022 at 2:42 pm

    Have a wonderful time! We hit Disney in November, and I thought it was pretty safe from a Covid standpoint. Hope people are supportive of your individual choices, as they should be.

  • Reply Sherri February 9, 2022 at 2:45 pm

    This is fascinating from a British perspective where we are absolutely expected to take our time off. If you don’t take it because you have too much work to do then HR start chasing your manager to see what the problem is. People often do still answer emails and calls while on leave, but those are the people who ultimately end up burnt out and less effective. More hours does not automatically equal more quality work. Don’t feel guilty for having what you are actually entitled to! You wouldn’t turn down part of your salary each month, which is the same thing just from another perspective.

  • Reply San February 9, 2022 at 3:15 pm

    Hi new reader, first time commenter: I am sorry you feel taken advantage of. I am the sort of person who gives of the same vibe to others and it’s hard to set boundaries, but I am glad you’re thinking about how to change this dynamic, because it can truly be so draining.

    Have so much fun at Disney.

  • Reply Grateful Kae February 9, 2022 at 4:15 pm

    About the availability/ responsiveness to messages thing- it made me think of a senior director in our department who has an email signature that says something like “I frequently check and reply to emails outside of normal business hours, but you don’t have to! Please don’t feel you need to reply until normal work hours.” I thought this was pretty cool of her, since being a higher up admin person, I can see how some people might feel they should hurry and reply to her if they get a late email. I like that she is very forthcoming about not expecting that from people beneath her and encouraging people to take evenings OFF.

    • Reply Katie February 9, 2022 at 4:25 pm

      I love this. As the owner of my business, I often worry that my own out of hours activity encourages others to do the same or perhaps makes them think it’s expected. For me, it’s my memory a lot of the time – I have to do things right away or I’ll forget!

      • Reply Gwinne February 9, 2022 at 8:26 pm

        I recently figured out that in outlook you can delay send on an email to a specific date/ time. So I often write them in odd hours but delay send until normal business hours. I actually wrote a message yesterday that won’t go out until next week. I was worried I would forget about it but it’s way too early to send as it’s a reminder.Real game changer for me

  • Reply Katie February 9, 2022 at 4:24 pm

    Please take the leave you’re owed! It’s right there, grab it and block yourself out for chunks of YOU time. And if you’ll feel tempted to check emails etc or do some work while off, can you plan for that and make plans that don’t allow you to do that – for example, my local spa has a very strict “phones in lockers” policy, plus very patchy phone signal. It’s the perfect place to go for a forced switch off from the world.

    Can you book a day or two off after Disney? Because I hope you have a great time but totally agree that it won’t be rejuvenating in the way you probably need right now.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger February 9, 2022 at 4:38 pm

      lol, definitely not. Clinical days we have to block way in advance b/c patients book very far out. BUT I do have some rejuvenating days off booked for March.

  • Reply Rebecca February 9, 2022 at 7:37 pm

    I’m a nurse educator and while totally different, probably has some similarities. I sure been utilizing the new work “do not disturb” to help me from picking up my phone every time I get a text and it sends that person a response that you have DND on. I just answer them when I am ready for a break. Maybe a good idea to do on vacation too so you feel really away! My boss also encourages us to remove our email from our phone while we are on vacation/off so we’re not tempted to look! If it’s truly an emergency they’ll call. 🙂 enjoy your time away! I think all working parents especially in medicine are burnt out on life right now and real breaks and vacations are a good thing 🙂

  • Reply Marthe February 10, 2022 at 2:50 am

    Have fun at Disney, though no rest, enjoy the happiness of your kids!

    Could you plan as a standard one PL day for the first workday after call?

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger February 10, 2022 at 7:32 am

      That’s a great idea (or even the day after, if I have clinic Tuesday).

  • Reply Laura February 10, 2022 at 9:21 am

    Living in Florida, the safest I’ve felt I’ve been is at Disney. Enforced mask wearing, constant cleaning, etc. Enjoy!

  • Reply Jessica February 10, 2022 at 10:16 am

    Have fun at Disney! I highly recommend the rum Dole Whip at Tamu Tamu in Animal Kingdom!

  • Reply Erica Sparky February 10, 2022 at 12:31 pm

    Have fun at Disney! We, on a whim, decided to go to Universal at the end of March for 4 days, and we also have an uvaxxed 4 year old. I realize this is very ableist to say, but our immediate family does not have any high risk comorbidities and our jobs are stable, and it’s a good time in our work calendars should we get covid and need to isolate. So it’s a measured risk, when basically everything else we do is incredibly low risk.

    As far as being asked for things at work – I get this too. My friend and I call this the “Curse of Competence.” When you routinely do things, and do them well, people keep asking for little favors. I’m not necessarily a people pleaser, but I’m naturally inclined to help people and it’s my first instinct to offer help, or I honestly just do stuff for people without them asking because it’s easier than me teaching them. It’s actually my 2022 goal to have others be more self-sufficient (at work and at home).

    • Reply Erica Sparky February 10, 2022 at 12:35 pm

      ALSO _ Griffin is turning 10. TEN. So we’re celebrating that!! Do you remember when A and G at A’s first birthday party? I can’t believe they’re TEN this year.

      • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger February 10, 2022 at 12:51 pm

        I know. It’s insane!!!!!

  • Reply Amy February 11, 2022 at 10:28 am

    I hope you have a wonderful, wonderful time at Disney this weekend!! If you’re staying overnight in Orlando and off property, I highly recommend ubering over to your park destination. DH and I did that a couple of years ago to Epcot and it was a win for us!!

  • Reply Hope February 14, 2022 at 4:56 pm

    I hope you had a great time in Disney with your family. Glad you are getting a break. You deserve it and I know you have had a stressful year so far. Moving, the week on call etc.

    I enjoyed the latest episode tremendously. I am happy with my planner that I chose (after hearing about it on the show )so I find the concepts involved in planning and productivity and being healthy equally important as everything planners. I probably prefer it truthfully. I will never own a bunch of different planners. I enjoy pens, but my planner is for me. I don’t need stickers etc. I can handle cross outs. I enjoy seeing layouts and learning how people use their planner space, example notes pages, but I doubt I will ever show mine on Instagram, Facebook, or Pinterest.

    Planners are about functionality, and Planning is part of life.

    A guest who I would suggest is Laura McClellan (The Productive Woman)
    Laura Vanderkam has been a guest on her podcast.

    I do really enjoy your podcast. It’s calming. You have a pleasant voice and are easy to listen to. That means a great deal.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger February 14, 2022 at 5:34 pm

      Thank you so much, and great idea! I love The Productive Woman 🙂

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