Ahhh, the perfect holiday – you lie stretched out on a hammock between two gently swaying palm trees. There’s no traffic and no noise apart from the rhythmic lapping of waves on the shore. With a great book and a cool drink in hand, you take a deep breath and drift away.
Sounds idyllic, but now for the real story. At the end of a frantic week’s work, you stay up till 2am packing bags and trying to find your passport. You then pick up the Blackberry and spend another hour returning emails. The alarm clock screamed at 4.45am and you jumped into a last minute cab to the airport. Four hours later you’re in a two hour customs queue. Finally, you arrive at your hotel just as the local telephone network connects with your roaming Blackberry… Beep! You have mail.
Sound familiar? If you suffer from holiday stress, you’re not alone. A recent survey by American Express revealed that 40% of British holidaymakers find travel stress more unbearable than a visit to the dentist. And to describe our relaxing holidays we’ve had to invent new terms like trolley rage, air rage and check-in rage to explain what happens when wired up workers try and hit the off button.
According to a recent Tourism Australia survey, the Australian workforce has accrued more than 70 million days of annual leave. That equates to 14 million weeks or nearly $11 billion in holiday pay.
The study also found that almost 60% of Australian workers don’t take their full annual leave entitlement! When questioned why, the majority responded with “I’m too busy to take a lot of time out”.
It’s just unsustainable. The key to performing at your peak is high intensity effort interspersed with regular recharge and renewal periods.
Here are seven tips for reducing holiday stress
1. Plan your break. Many people plan their working day to the last second but fail to give any thought to their time off. Look for relaxing locations and fun activities for your next break. Pack early, keep important paper work including passports and travel documents in the same place and get a good night’s sleep before you leave.
2. Leave your work behind. Don’t take anything to finish on your next break except a good book. Be disciplined and leave your work in the office.
3. Bury the laptop. Leave your laptop in the office too. If that sounds hard, you might find you are addicted to your laptop, mobile or PDA. Try turning them off for a week – seriously!
4. Prune your schedule. Don’t pack your holiday diary like your average working week; leave some time to just chill and relax. This will do wonders for your creative thinking and reducing your holiday stress levels.
5. Try something new to give your brain a rest from the normal grind. Go windsurfing, paddle a kayak, learn French, try yoga or book in for a massage.
6. Get up at the same time every day. A big trap on holidays is the circadian rhythm free-running cycle. You go to bed a little later each night and by the end of the holiday you’re sleeping in until lunchtime. Go to bed and get up at your normal times. If you feel sleep deprived, go to bed an hour earlier or enjoy an afternoon siesta.
7. Learn to relax. As a reformed workaholic, I honestly had to learn to do this. When it’s time to switch off, set boundaries that force you to relax. Try turning off your mobile phone and ditching the watch.
Reducing holiday stress by relaxing and switching off may not come easily at first, but persist. It is impossible to be productive when you are switched on 24/7.