Margien Sijbesma
Margien Sijbesma

From leave to reflection: 'Take a step back, let go and make space'

She can recommend it to everyone. Margien Sijbesma, Learning and Development advisor and (team) coach at HR, recently took a leave of absence to spend a week alone in a holiday cottage. Once there, there was room for reflection. 'Others said: we should do that too.'

Margien had the idea for some time. Booking a holiday cottage for just herself and taking the time to reflect and unwind. 'Beforehand I found it quite exciting, without friends and children', she confesses. "But once I was there, it was wonderful." She stayed on Terschelling for a week. 'Reading, cycling in nature and relaxing. Charging the proverbial battery. And above all: deciding everything yourself, not having to consult with others. Feeling: what do I need now?'.

Turbulent period

She was very much in need of peace and reflection, after a turbulent period. 'My father passed away in December last year. The long period of caregiving, the funeral and all the subsequent settlements was not easy. In the months that followed, I noticed that I needed space to unwind. I am someone who adapts a lot to others. But I also knew that I would only find peace by being alone for a while. I had already experienced that two years ago, when I was away from home for a few days to walk solo. That memory stimulated me to go away on my own again.'

Finding peace and quiet to reflect

On Terschelling she found peace, which gradually created space in the head to reflect on work. 'Because I was in a different environment, I literally distanced myself from everything and got away from the daily worries. That also made me look at myself and my work from a distance. In everyday life, there is hardly any time and space for this. That's because we're all on a treadmill that goes on and on. In our work we are constantly reacting to what is happening, we all have an enormous sense of duty and therefore little attention for ourselves.'

Still, Margien noticed that taking a break from work was not easy. 'I really needed a few days for that, I was still too much in action mode at the beginning of my leave. It took a few days before I got into relaxation mode. As a result, I suddenly no longer dreamed about current events at night, but about the past. Apparently, there was room in my brain to process things from the unconscious. So during the day, I thought about my work from a distance and asked myself several questions. Do I still enjoy my work? What makes me happy? And what needs to change in my work? My conclusion is that I still enjoy my work, but I now realize that I think it's important to stay in control. In other words, anticipate rather than react. It's a valuable insight.'


Margien received various reactions from those around her. 'My children didn't think it was strange that I went to a cottage in Terschelling alone. Some people asked: 'Isn't it boring, on your own?' Sometimes yes, but such moments are also instructive because they offer room for new insights. And I wasn't alone all the time, because for two days I had a friend over. A common reaction from colleagues was: 'It's cool that you're doing this.' Others said, "We should do that too." I can recommend it to every colleague. It is healthy to use leave every now and then to take a longer break from work. The weekends alone are not enough for that. Fortunately, as an employer, Radboud University offers sufficient hours of leave, so that as an employee you can spend time on yourself in addition to time with your family.'

At the same time, Margien also knows that this is easier said than done. 'We all feel enormously responsible for our work. But it is precisely then that it is good to experience that the world just keeps turning when you are not working. Allow yourself to step back, move away and don't feel guilty about spending time on yourself. The latter helps to work on your resilience. In the end, everyone benefits from this: your family, your colleagues and, above all, yourself.'

Are you inspired by Margien her story? Check your balance of holiday hours!

Check balance holiday hours