Taking holidays is important to one’s health. Most of us intuitively know this but there is now a variety of research confirming this is the case. Are you interested in stress reduction, heart disease prevention, increased productivity and better sleep as is stated in this article?! That’s just to name a few but I could go on and on with other benefits here if I really wanted to... but I think you get the idea! All goes to support the old adage that no-one on their deathbed ever said “I wish I worked more”.
I would like to talk about how to take a holiday though. Seems pretty straightforward right? Book time off, pick a place and go! But it has become apparent to me that often after my clients come back from holiday, they still aren’t feeling good, relaxed or recharged. I found this confusing until I dug a little deeper. Yes, people had taken time off of work, and they maybe even went somewhere beautiful or relaxing. However, they didn’t take a vacation from some of the things they really needed to in order to relax. For example some people spent their vacation sampling too many indulgences, so much so that they ended up looking forward to coming back to their regular routine rather than enjoying every vacation day away. Some people packed their itinerary with so much sightseeing and travel in between places that they ended up feeling exhausted, and needing a holiday from their holiday.
When planning a holiday, I think it’s important to take a moment to assess not only where you are going but what kind of holiday do you need. How are you feeling before the holiday? How do you want to feel when you return? Then you can focus on how to make that happen.
Without setting some boundary conditions or intentions, we can often be like caged animals that once released over-indulge or engage in experiential overload, and can come back feeling worse than when we left.
So, tips for successfully taking a holiday –
This is my favorite one so I’m putting it first: pick something to let go of.
Perhaps it is social media, maybe it’s not putting makeup on or doing your hair. It could be your cellphone, or it might be not working out religiously every day, or eating perfectly. It could be to try not saying anything negative, or maybe it is about letting go of scheduling or some sort of control. I highly recommend experimenting with something here. I love holidays where I don’t wear makeup and don’t worry about what to wear, or I forget what day it is or don’t know what I’m going to do that day. Make some space to have some freedoms and to let go. Having this space from these things not only gives us valuable insight but also gives us a psychological break!!!!
Setting up boundaries for email and voicemail.
Holiday by definition is a period of festivity or recreation when no work is done! So did you set up an email autoreply that you are on vacation with your return date and alternate contact? Communication is important in setting boundaries! Our clients and colleagues won’t all automatically know we are on holiday unless we let them know.
I appreciate that unfortunately we live in a time where people think they cannot totally detach from work. In this case I recommend turning off email message notifications and instead setting aside time every day that you want to devote to addressing the work email if you absolutely need to. This allows you to fully enjoy most of your day and be really effective with the time you have set aside to address any urgent requests. The problem with having email notifications on your phone is that most people will read the email and even if they don’t intend to respond right away, they are then thinking of work again while on holiday. If this happens all throughout the day you are not getting a break from work and nor are you really being present for what you are trying to enjoy on your holiday, i.e. time with your family, relaxation, sight-seeing etc. You will find that the people on the other end don’t care that you don’t respond right away - the world will not stop turning. We are all entitled to vacation and organizations that run properly should have built-in procedures for alternate staff or contacts.
Ask yourself what kind of holiday you need.
I find that most people are very busy in life, and have some significant level of stress that they are trying to get a break from. In that case, planning a holiday where you are busy everyday may not be the best idea. While it is easy to get excited when seeing new places and desiring to take in absolutely everything it may not be rejuvenating. So maybe it’s time to book a yoga retreat? Or maybe you really do need some excitement in your life and you are going on a safari, but maybe you’re also feeling lonely in life so perhaps you need some time with family or to book a group trip. Maybe you have been so busy you haven’t had time to work out regularly so you plan a walking or cycling holiday? There are many ways to cater a holiday to actually give you the break you need. Take some time to assess this, give yourself the holiday that is going to work for you! Holidays don’t even need to be abroad they could be right here in your own backyard. Many people swear by “staycations”.
Careful with over indulgences.
It’s easy to get carried away on vacation when eating out every day and wanting to try new foods and restaurants, or if you are on an all-inclusive holiday. People often say “Well that’s what holidays are for!” but I somewhat disagree. If it ends up that you come home from holiday feeling tired, with an upset stomach and carrying 10 extra pounds that you are going to feel guilty about it kind of defeats the point. I suggest picking one meal a day that you are going to indulge in and the other times try to make the best choice possible. This way you are still getting to indulge daily but you get to come home feeling good too! Take a moment to think about how much alcohol consumption is too much for you, set some guidelines of how much a day or how many days you are going to consume. For example, is happy hour going to be the habit or is it every other day? This is another area where it’s easy for people to get carried away and come back from holiday thinking they need a liver detox!
Exercise somehow some way!
Plan to bring your walking shoes or arrange a city bike tour or a local hike. Swim at the pool or at the beach. Stay moving, stay active. This is a great way to counteract some of the extra drinks and calories, but also a good way to explore. It doesn’t have to be every single day but at least some of the days. I promise you that you will feel better for it and perhaps get to do or see something interesting too!!
Take a day off when you come home.
Leave at least one day between your return date and the date you go back to work. This day gives you an opportunity to get grounded, recover from any travel time, unpack, start the laundry and pick up some groceries for the week. Then relax, allow your body and soul to bathe in the goodness that was your holiday, but also the comforts of home. This will have you starting your day back at work feeling relaxed, fresh and organized!
I hope this helps you plan and think about your next trip. I don’t think being perfectly healthy on holidays is the way to go, however thinking about a few of these tips will have you coming back with that holiday “glow” and hopefully a good dosage of all the proven health benefits! Bon voyage!!