A couple of weeks ago, I was super stressed. We’re in the middle of a huge procurement project at work, and it’s the first time I’ve ever been involved in something like that. With a week of annual leave coming up I was struggling to cope with the thought of being away for five whole working days at such a critical time. It got to the point where I was offering to take my laptop with me and work from our holiday rental on the Isle of Arran if I needed to. My boss, quite rightly, told me to stop being ridiculous and to go and enjoy my holiday, and that ‘the work will be here when you get back.’
To help avoid stress, anxiety and burnout, it is so important to use your holiday for exactly that – a holiday! Here are my top seven ways to de-stress on holiday (one for each day of your average week of annual leave!):
1. Do not take your work laptop/work phone
This one’s self-explanatory really. You are not working. You do not need your laptop/blackberry. Replying to emails or working on projects while on holiday is a slippery slope, and if you have access to them you will struggle to a) relax, and b) not peek at them.
If anyone absolutely needs to contact you, and they should only be doing that for emergencies like someone’s stuck in the building and you know where the key is, or the Twitter’s been hacked and only you know the password, etc., they then can use your personal contact details from the HR system. If anyone tries to contact you for work purposes when you are on leave, tell them where to go (with a polite but firm ‘out of office’ message).
2. Pick up an old hobby
Hobbies can be great for relieving stress, taking your mind off work, and giving you something active and/or creative to focus on for a few hours. For me, it’s baking! I baked almost every day during my week off and it was so much fun. Even though most hobbies aren’t strictly ‘relaxing’, spending time doing non-work activities that you enjoy can lift your mood and help you relax, plus you also get really good at your hobbies the more you practice and then enjoy them even more. Baking also has the added bonus of tasty treats at the end of it!
3. Treat yourself
Sometimes, you need to take a leaf out of Tom and Donna from Parks and Recreation’s book and “treat yo’ seeeeelf!”
Personally, I love a visit to a spa as a treat, where I can chill out and listen to plinky plunky music, get a relaxing de-stress massage and a facial to sort out my tired raggedy skin, and really feel like I am looking after myself. When I can’t find (or afford) a spa day, a DIY at home spa evening with a face mask, deep conditioner and a glass of wine works pretty well too. Find something that makes you feel like a pampered princess and make sure you treat yourself to it on holiday.
4. Get out into nature
No matter where you are in the world, nature is always beautiful. Talking a walk, hike or run through the countryside, hills, rivers, beaches or forests wherever you are can help you clear your head, and appreciate the beauty of the natural world and forget the buzz and stress of the day job. Plus exercise, even just going for a chilled stroll, is (I’m sure) scientifically proven to help reduce anxiety and stress, and it’s good for your body as well as your mind.
5. Enjoy not having to do anything
If you are stressed because you’re not doing any work, just think, you’re not doing any work! You’re doing whatever you damn well feel like doing. Enjoy the feeling instead of getting worked up about it. As my boss said, the work will be there when you get back, but this chill-out time won’t. Just think how productive and amazing you will be after a whole week of relaxing.
6. Eat, drink and be merry
I’ve had some, if not most, of the best food and drink I’ve ever had on holiday. Whether you’re abroad or at home, find the fabulous places to eat and drink and enjoy them! No going straight from the office to dinner, no dragging yourself in with a wine hangover the next day, just you and a menu.
7. Make plans to maintain your new de-stressed state
On my last few days of holiday, rather than feel down about heading back to normality, or worse getting stressed out thinking about what I was going back to, I tried to think of ways to help keep my stress levels down once I was back in the hustle and bustle of everyday life. I signed myself up for a couple of yoga classes, planned a few recipes I want to try to keep up my baking hobby, and ordered some really nice skincare products for impromptu pamper evenings. I also bought some super comfy relaxation-friendly slippers, clearly an essential purchase… A stressed person is not a productive person, so put your de-stressing efforts to good use and plan some non-holiday de-stress activities to keep your head in the right place.
Let me know what you do to de-stress on holiday! Nothing is more important than your mental health and wellbeing, and everyone needs to relax and de-stress once in a while.