Shelter No More: What I Learned From My “Furlough”
For an audio version of this post, please click on the speaker icon (top left).
When the COVID-19 phenomena first hit in early March for my locale, shelter-in-place orders from my state governor quickly followed.
As mentioned in my previous post, “The Furlough Of Xrayvsn,” the resulting decrease in patient volumes had caused my partner and I to implement a new coverage schedule where one radiologist manned the entire department by himself while the other was off (and unpaid).
There was a comment on that particular post that raised a valid point that what I described might not be a true furlough as it could be thought of more along the lines of manipulating coverage issues.
I am, however, still sticking with the concept of a furlough as I could not find a more appropriate term to fit my situation.
I choose to define a furlough as a particular circumstance where an individual wants to work, there is not enough work to do so and that individual therefore is told to stay home without pay.
I wanted to work and earn money, but the patient volume did not justify two radiologists in our workplace.
When it was my turn to not work, because I was under the “Eat What I Kill Model of Compensation” I did not earn money.
As the title of this post indicates, the shelter-in-place orders have now lapsed and my state is now in the process of trying to reopen the economy in a phased method.
With the previous ban of elective surgeries about to end, those surgical specialties that had previously shuttered their doors for a month began to open them back up a week in advance.
At the completion of 2 cycles each of our “self-furlough” plan, my colleague and I noticed that there was definitely a trend upward in imaging volume, a direct result of the surgical specialties ramping up.
Patient volume recovery was to a point that the last few days of solo departmental coverage became incredibly painful, with me hitting personal bests in terms of the number of total studies read.
In fact the last two days of my solo coverage got so busy that I could not even leave my office chair the entire day, not even for a bathroom break, for fear of getting too far behind.
My colleague and I therefore both agreed that, in order to avoid burnout, the self-furlough program had to end and that going forth the department would be manned by two radiologists.
Semantics aside, I thought I would share some insight of what changes I experienced during my two, alternating, weeks of furlough.
A weekend is not enough.
Every Friday after work I would go to the grocery store and do errands before heading home.
After working a week, by the time I got home I would be emotionally drained and my preferred activity would be vegging on the couch and watching TV, thus not accomplishing much.
I consider myself a “night person.”
However after a week of getting up early to get ready for work, my Friday night is often wasted because I can no longer stay awake into the wee hours of the morning like I used to in my youth.
Nope, I often head into bed well before midnight.
I also have learned my lesson about trying to start a Netflix movie on Friday nights as I often find myself repeatedly dozing off before the end of the movie.
I typically then waste the majority of the weekend mornings as I try to recoup some of the hours of sleep I missed during the work week (I usually emerge from my bedroom a little after 10 am on both Saturday and Sunday).
In a routine week all of my household items that I have put off and need to get done get compressed in the remaining hours of these two days:
- Despite having a 7+ acre property, I maintain the yard myself which can consume anywhere from 1.5 to 3 hours.
- I am also often at the mercy of the weather during this brief window of opportunity.
- If the weather does not cooperate, I have to press my luck and see if I can do it the following weekend.
- I am also often at the mercy of the weather during this brief window of opportunity.
- Every Sunday evening I tend to bulk prep the ingredients for the following week’s meals, most notably processing several pounds of chicken to use for my Chicken Tender Wrap recipe I typically eat for dinner.
So as you can see, a 2-day weekend typically offers little respite and limited chance to recharge my batteries before I restart the whole process over again and head back to work.
[Because of the smart decision to have every other Monday off, I am at least blessed with having alternating 3-day weekends which are a lot more enjoyable.]
A furlough recharging my batteries even more than a vacation?
Often we view vacations as a time where we can get away from it all and recharge our batteries.
And for the most part, it is true.
I certainly have had some incredibly memorable vacation memories that still bring a smile to me today.
But 7 days of vacation does not equate to 7 days of battery recharging.
You can certainly knock off two days right off the bat because of the hassles encountered with the traveling process to and from the destination of said vacation.
Dealing with driving to and from the airport, negotiating airport security, and being confined inside a hurtling metal tube at 30,000 feet in the air certainly is not enjoyable for me (not to mention the contortionist act you have to go through in order to use an airline bathroom).
I often find myself arriving at my vacation spot even more stressed out than from a day’s work.
So those 7 days off quickly become only 5 usable days with which you can truly cram in all the planned getaway activities.
[I look forward to the day when I will be able to go on extended 2-week vacations which I think is the minimum time needed to truly immerse yourself in the local culture and find true relaxation.]
In contrast, my 7-day furlough allowed me to truly be off for the full 7 days.
The Furlough Transformation.
Although the first night of my furlough closely mimicked my normal end of work week routine, it felt a lot different the first morning off.
Granted I still got up fairly late, again emerging from my bedroom around 10 am.
But it felt a lot different this time.
All those household chores did not weigh on my head as much as I knew I could diffuse that list over the course of the week instead of my typical 2-day window.
I was also not worried as much about the weather impacting my yardwork as there were many more potential days to choose from (the first furlough I ended up having perfect weather for the majority of the time off, the second furlough was the exact opposite with rain for the majority of the time but I was still to find a day or two that was perfect to do the outdoor chores).
An interesting phenomenon occurred.
As the days progressed, I found myself more and more relaxed and content, achieving a mental state very similar to actually being on vacation.
I also found myself naturally waking up earlier as my negative sleep balance was finally paid in full.
Even though I was under a shelter at home policy, I did not spend it watching TV on the couch like I would with my usual limited time off at home.
I actually looked forward to doing some more major landscaping on my property that I had put off.
On one particular day I spent over 6 hours outside, trimming shrubs, mowing the lawn, and spraying weed control.
My property, as well as my psyche, was completely transformed in the process.
I remember coming in that evening and immediately texting and sending photos of how my yard now looked to my fiancee, beaming with pride.
Despite the hard labor, I was more invigorated than ever.
In the post, “Adding Accelerant: Can A Side Hustle Cause Faster Burnout?,” I mentioned I was going through some mental struggles and that I was losing my motivation/inspiration for writing blog posts.
[By the way, I want to go on record and thank those individuals who commented on that particular post which helped pull me away from the ledge.]
The time off I experienced during this furlough did wonders by reigniting my passion for blogging again.
New topics starting racing in my mind and I could not wait to again put pen to paper.
The end of 2019 was a bit tough for me both at work and personally and I saw myself spiraling down, which I chronicled in my post, “The Double Edged Sword Of Momentum.”
My clinic was experiencing record volumes of patient visits and subsequently the radiology department was the busiest it had ever been (this carried into pre-COVID 2020).
On the home front my daughter left for Christmas because of custody requirements so I spent the holidays without her.
So I did what I did in the past and turned to food for consolation.
I subsequently gained more weight than I ever had in the past 8 years, topping in at 20 lbs heavier than where I like to be at.
I really did try to maintain my exercise regimen, and for the most part I did, but the numbers on the scale kept climbing.
I seemed to have settled on a new state of equilibrium, one that I was not happy with as I did not like my appearance and the feeling of carrying this extra girth around.
In the past I was able to hold my weight in check by exercising despite the occasional food indulgence.
This time it was different.
Maybe it was the slowing down of my metabolism as I aged.
But I think I found the true cause courtesy of the furlough.
You see something magical happened during this self-imposed time out.
Even though I kept up with the same exercise regimen, the weight started dropping.
And I mean dropping rapidly.
Even accounting for the extra bit I did with yardwork, the amount of pounds shed far surpassed what I could have accomplished in the past for the amount of activity I was doing.
All told I dropped 8 lbs during the furlough which further improved my psyche as I started to reclaim by appearance back.
So what gives?
Given the events leading up to my weight gain, I suspect I was the victim of 3 atoms, Carbon, Hydrogen, and Oxygen.
More specifically a specific composition of those atoms (C21-H20-05).
For those not biochemically inclined, that’s the chemical formula of Cortisol.
You see Cortisol is colloquially known as the stress hormone, produced by our adrenal glands.
I think the ending of 2019 certainly had my adrenal glands pumping out copious amounts of the stuff.
And one of the main side effects of cortisol is that it leads to weight gain.
Could the fact that I suddenly started dropping weight and the fact I was approaching a zen like state during my furlough be connected?
I would like to think they are indeed related and perhaps this stress hormone was no longer needed.
Apart from the last solo coverage days mentioned above, work has been considerably less stressful as volumes are still well below normal.
For the moment I think I will take the time to enjoy it while it lasts.
If you are in search of financial help, please consider enlisting the service of any of the sponsors of this blog who I feel are part of the “good guys and gals of finance.”
Even a steadfast DIY’er can sometimes gain benefit from the occasional professional input.
NOTE: The website XRAYVSN contains affiliate links and thus receives compensation whenever a purchase through these links is made (at no further cost to you). As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. Although these proceeds help keep this site going they do not have any bearing on the reviews of any products I endorse which are from my own honest experiences. Thank you- XRAYVSN