Take time to recharge your batteries

  • Published
  • By Col. Brian K. Witt
  • 42nd Medical Group deputy commander
Today's high ops tempo in the Air Force demands that all individuals be mentally and physically fit and ready to accomplish the mission. The stressors and demands are unrelenting and our ability to survive and cope in this fast-paced environment is directly related to our internal energy reserves. 

Just like a battery, when we are "fully charged" we have the energy and stamina to tackle the tough jobs head-on and the mental focus to see solutions to difficult problems.

On the other hand, running at full-speed without a break will soon cause you to feel "drained" and, just like a weak battery, if you do not take the time to recharge it, you will suffer the consequences of not having enough "power" to keep your body and mind working at peak operating efficiency. 

I recently returned from vacation at Disney World where the importance of taking time away from work to relax and "recharge" was made clear to me. Prior to my departure, my leave balance was almost 60 days and I was functioning on back-up generator power; in fact, my batteries had expired weeks ago. 

I had gone a long period of time without taking an extended break and the signs of stress were beginning to surface. I used every excuse you could think of for not taking time off such as "I'm too busy" or "I've got to finish this project" or, my favorite, "I'll never get caught up if I take time off." 

AFI 36-3003, Military Leave Program, paragraph 4.1.4, points out that, "The use of leave is essential to the morale and motivation of members and for maintaining maximum effectiveness. Lengthy respites from the work environment tend to have a beneficial effect on the individual's psychological and physical status." 

Furthermore, it states that commanders and supervisors should, "Give members the opportunity to take at least one leave period of 14 consecutive days or more every FY and encourage them to use the 30 days accrued each FY." 

The point is that you need sufficient "down time" for rest and relaxation away from e-mails, in-boxes, and the pressures of work. It is beneficial to have a few days off every now and then but it is more important to take an extended break at least once a year. 

In today's fast-paced environment, taking a vacation to "recharge" is no longer a luxury, it's a requirement. As leaders, we should be monitoring our own leave balance to ensure we are getting the right amount of time off to function effectively on the job and, in addition, we should be taking care of our people by making sure they have sufficient time off to recuperate from the stressors of work. 

Don't let yourself or your subordinates get caught up in the "I'm indispensable" myth. You will be doing yourself and others a great disservice if you do not take care of yourself, both physically and mentally, by taking leave on a regular basis and, at least once a year, taking off for an extended period of time, preferably, for two-weeks at a minimum. 

Take a lesson from me - don't wait until your leave balance reaches the 60-day mark before you decide to take a break. Be sure to take time off at regular intervals during the year to keep your batteries (and your perspective) fresh.

Just like the Energizer Bunny, if you want to keep on going and going, your battery pack must be fully charged and the best way to maintain optimal power is to recharge on a periodic basis.