Living Abroad at Home Everywhere and Nowhere as illustrated by the travelling suitcaseIs your R & R all Rock and Roll or actual Rest and Recuperation? In slang terms R & R is used loosely to describe the need to wind down after heavy partying. In the Military, UN and Non-Governmental organisations it has a much deeper meaning, need and practical use. After working 24/7 for weeks on end, in a remote area, you get to go away on paid leave for a few days to relax, recuperate, reconnect, recharge, party, procure stuff and see other people. We all agree that R & R is essential when you work far away from home. But – Do you come back rested and ready to do it all over again? How can you compress your R & R to meet all those needs you have with actual rest and recuperation? 

What is R & R?

The Field Mission Dilemma illustrated by Security Fence

Access and Choice?

The concept of R & R in the military, UN, humanitarian aid, non-governmental organisations and similar work assignments means that you get to go away from your duty station for a few days to rest and recuperate (or relax) at the cost of the employer. Important to understand that while most people have evenings and weekends – your job is different. You serve 24/7 for weeks on end, in a remote so-called non-family hardship location often under stressful and extreme conditions (war zone, climate, isolation, insecurity etc). 

Why do you need R & R? 

These work situations demand a lot from the job holders, who get professionally challenged, experience and build expertise fast – in often extreme conditions. On the minus side it is the very real conditions of work which wear you out mentally and physically.

Field Mission Dilemma, Fit for Purpose in a Broken World? Illustrated by World breaking on shattered glass.Because of safety and security you often live in compounds, eat in communal canteens, and socialize with those you work with. More often than not you work from the moment you get up until you go to bed (with your radio on). You never really rest, and adrenaline is pumping through out. There are no shops, or places, to go to get away from it all.

The need for wind-down, relaxation, and letting-go is very much-needed and noticeable after a few weeks. You have probably also run low on those extra supplies (chocolates, health supplements, nutrition extras, personal equipment etc). To meet the need to get away to recuperate, address the performance go-slow and procurement needs, the R & R concept was created by the military and as a term also ‘misused’ by many who have little idea what serving in a hardship, insecure place really means. 

Rest & Recuperation or Rock & Roll?

Health, wellness and lifestyle choice not so easy to understandRest, recuperation and rehabilitation is a question of interpretation. For many it is a time to let go, party and dance until dawn. For some it means reconnecting with family, spending time to recharge, and reboot, until it is time to go back again. For others it is the opportunity to delve into daredevil hobbies such as sky diving, parachuting, racing across the Sahara, and similar adventurous delights. No matter how you spend your time, the main principle of getting away from the duty station and its hardcore professional demands are met. You do come back refreshed in some ways, and ready to do it all over again. This is until your body and mind actually says ‘stop’

R & R: Brain and Body Drain Blues

lifestyle and health are linked as illustrated by the man slipping down an arrow because he does not look after himself.How many times have you not said to yourself: I feel drained, tired, fat, bloated, haggard, used-up and ready to be drawn and quartered! The way you feel is an effect of the conditions you serve in, and the job that you do. Humanitarian Aid Work has rarely been more hazardous, and ranks as the 6th most deadly job you can do. The impact of what happens to you is of concern to the employer, your family and friends and you wonder sometimes how you can keep it up.

The living conditions, mental pressures combined with a high pressure job takes its toll. Your health, fitness level and balanced lifestyle tend to come very much last when you serve in these duty stations. Ultimately it all impacts on how well you do the job, and function as a person. What you experience, and see, on daily basis affects both body and mind, and the reflex is often to reach for a cigarette, a bottle, and an equally drained colleague to drain out the noise of the experiences. You are on a downward path.

The spiral tends to extend to your R & Rs and the bottles, cigarettes, and perhaps misguided company, translate into regrets, hangovers and health consequences. It adds to the brain and body drain. By not breaking the chain of events you get dragged deeper, and deeper, into ill-health, and more prone to catch disease, infection and complete burn out. 

Why Do Real R & R Matter?

  • By never allowing yourself to really rest, you burn you life from both ends. If you expose yourself to unhealthy behaviours both on the job, and off it, you will find yourself in a downward spiral that can be hard to break  – until a collapse does it for you.
  • The Field Mission Dilemma - Lifestyle change is a key choice to Feel Good AND Do Good. Man standing in a three way crossing scratching his head.By breaking a pattern you put a braking action in motion. You actively allow new and better influences to capture you. 
  • An investment in real rest is a challenge in itself, as it means coming up with new recreational ideas, that often break away from what friends, and set social moulds,have put into place.
  • Allowing your mind and body to stop for while opens new doors, recharges the batteries, and reboots your energy so you work more effectively and efficiently. 

Recuperation in a deeper sense means taking the time to address well-being and fitness. Health prevention comes in many forms. You are likely to perform better if your body and mind are truly fit to deal with the extreme pressures that emergency assistance, military operations and oil rigging bring.

Real R & R: How to get Real with your R & R

Change Reaction can be to inspire others to change too as illustrated by Newtons CradleHow can you find ways to relax and really recreate body and mind? It starts with an active decision to listen to your body and mind and realise that the need to break a pattern is urgent. Then – take a decision to do something different for your next R & R. Make a plan that focuses on wellness, rest and health build-up. You need not go on an extreme fast, nor run up a mountain. Easy does it! Plan your R & R to fit where you can go, who you will be with – and even consider just spending time by yourself. Investing in Me Time is highly underestimated, I think.

R & R: Tips and Links

  • How to get a Healthier Life illustrated by yin and hand of unhealthy and healthy foodsFind a Friend’ that lives in the city where you can go (most organisations have designated R & R destinations), and make that your base for a few days. Your re-designed R & R plan should be all about healthy foods, fitness and well-being. Say to yourself, that these days should be a cleansing experience and focus on being good to yourself by mindfully choosing healthy foods, water, rest, mindfulness and relaxation techniques
  • Contact The GOODista illustrated by world map and email sign. Elements of this picture by NASA.Browse the internet before you go and make your procurement orders on-line. For instance Aliexpress.com delivers all over the world, and has a huge range of great products. Nordstrom.com is another surprising on-line store that delivers internationally as is the ever reliable Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com that has everything you can think of.  I subscribe to health foods through the Amazon.co.uk grocery store and get them delivered every 2 months. Super practical and stops stressing around for goods when time is precious. Another great tip for wellness items, gym equipment and nutrition supplements is MyProtein.com – that also delivers almost everywhere. Make your orders before you visit your friend (or get them delivered to a hotel 🙂 ). Cut down of stressing around for things when time if short and your focus should be Me, Myself and I
  • Time Out means investing time in you to save time for those that matter in your life, illustrated by Sun down in TropicsBook yourself a really swanky hotel, with a fitness and Spa centre. A few days of pampering, top service, and comfy beds combined with beauty treatments, messages and everyday fitness does wonders for body and soul! If you want to read reviews, and find out which hotel or resort fits your needs, I recommend Tripadvisor.com
  • Good Rest is also less stress, as illustrated by this frog in a zen pose.Find a Health retreat or Yoga centre that takes care of you from the moment you enter. Place yourself in their expert hands and let go. They will schedule a programme that fits your level and ensures a boost for weeks to come. Check out the internet for reviews, ask around or check out Tripadvisor.com, or superbreak.com that specialise in mini breaks (note: mainly in Europe) .
  • Go for something different! Enrol into a Diving course, or go mountain climbing. Do what you never normally do. It refreshes the mind, challenges your body – and who knows you might make new friends with different perspectives. 
  • Go for a break from it all and just relax on a beach, or a mountain top. Rent a holiday let or book a budget hotel – maybe even one without internet (oh! Scary thought!). Disconnect for all your daily activities, friends and just exist for a few days. Putting the emphasis on body and mind refresh realigns your senses, and more than anything ensures real rest and recuperation. 
R&R is essential for health & wellbeing as illustrated by this picture of a beach with tire tracks into no-where. Photo Credit: Charles Kuipers von Lande for The GOODista, all rights reserved.

Photo Credit: C. Kuipers von Lande, all rights reserved.

Making your next R & R different is what puts a breaking action into that spiral of constant adrenaline, and overtaxing of body and mind. Making sure you can be ‘well-thy’ – i.e. wellness focused – for a few days can make a change to how you continue. A few small steps towards lifestyle changes doesn’t have to be completely ‘out there’ or out of tune with that carefully polished ‘field look’, right? A real rest actually allows you to recuperate more for you than anyone else – with the added bonus that you have more energy for your work too. 

What do you plan to do for your next R & R?  

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