Don’t squander the restorative potential of your vacation.
As the end of the year approaches, many of you will be going on holiday. So, this week, my message focuses on how to make the most of your time away and come back to work feeling re-energised. Here are 9 suggestions:
1. Research well but don’t over plan
In Tips for Keeping That Post-Vacation Feeling, Stephanie Rosenbloom highlights the value of planning:
Well-planned vacations lower stress, according to research by Shawn Achor…. “Poorly planned and stressful vacations eliminate the positive benefit of time away,” Mr. Achor wrote in a blog series for the Harvard Business Review last year. “A positive, well-managed vacation can make you happier and less stressed, and you can return with more energy at work and with more meaning in your life.”
However, try to build some flexibility. Do your research but don’t over plan. Over planning will take the discovery out of your vacation. You will go with pre-conceived idea about what you want to do – and leave no room for spontaneous last minute detours. When you have open travel plans, you are more likely to talk to other travellers about the places they have visited and enjoyed. You will ask locals about their favourite places and you will usually discover something that would never show up in guidebooks and become the highlight of your whole trip.
2. Slow down
If you’re heading to a faraway or expensive destination, you might be tempted to cram your days in order to experience as many things as possible. While it’s great to be out and about, be cautious of overloading your schedule – don’t stay so busy that you have no time to genuinely unwind. According to a recent study, only vacationers who have a “very relaxed” trip demonstrate post-vacation happiness.
3. Eat healthy before your trip
You probably indulge yourself while travelling, which is totally understandable – after all, food can be a great way to discover new cultures and have fun. If you’re worried about putting on unwanted pounds by the time you get back, make it a point to eat extra-healthy starting a couple of weeks before your trip. That way, you don’t need to deprive yourself of any culinary adventures!
Have you ever come back from a vacation feeling like you need another vacation? Breaks are meant to be rejuvenating, but many travellers return to their regular lives feeling exhausted and drained.
4. Ease into new time zones
If you’re heading into a very different time zone, the change can be tough on your body. There are a few ways to make the transition easier. Many frequent flyers swear by the following rule: as soon as you board the plane, switch over to the time at your destination. If it’s 7 am there, get a tea/coffee and “start” a new day; if it’s 1 am, go to sleep! Starting a few days before your journey, you can also adjust your sleep and wake-up timings by a couple of hours.
5. Disconnect from work
To reap the full benefits of a vacation, you need to disengage from the office. Focus on spending time with your family and friends, immersing in the destination, or simply relaxing – be it by the pool, amid nature or in city streets. If there are any crucial tasks to be handled while you’re away, delegate them to a capable team member before leaving, give them all the information they need and then let them get on with it. Don’t micromanage through constant WhatsApp messages or emails. If you’re going for an extended period, give yourself 30 minutes a day to deal with emails and/or make a quick phone call to catch up with what’s happening at the office – the rest of the time, make the holiday your priority. Keep someone on your team aware of your travel plans and local phone numbers to contact you in case of emergencies.
6. Curb social media
If you didn’t post it, did it really happen? In this age of digital media, it can be difficult to have a break that’s totally offline – and that’s fine. However, like with work, try not to perpetuate your daily stresses while on vacation. Excessive social media can induce a variety of anxieties, such as FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) and the need to rack up lots of “likes”. So, keep your usage to a minimum to allow your mind to unwind and open itself up to new experiences.
7. Return a day early
One of the main reasons for feeling stressed after a holiday is returning late at night and starting another long week at work first thing in the morning. This can feel chaotic, undermining all the rejuvenating benefits of the vacation and leaving you frazzled. You obviously want to spend as much time as possible at your destination, but consider the advantages of coming home a day early: two nights of rest and plenty of time to complete chores at leisure. You can unpack, do the laundry, get the house back in running order and start your week with a calm mind. Another option is to return by the morning of your last day of leave – this still gives you a much-welcome buffer day.
Research shows that while anticipating a vacation creates joy very easily, sustaining pleasure after a holiday is tougher. Talking about the trip, sharing stories and looking at pictures are great ways to keep the magic going. In the article mentioned above, Rosenbloom notes the importance of setting aside time to reminisce:
Most people snap back to their particular baseline level of happiness shortly after returning from a vacation. But psychologists say that reminiscing about a trip, even long after it’s over, can bring deep pleasure in the present. “Flipping through a photo album or watching old video clips (us at the Grand Canyon, me driving my motorbike) helps us relive the positive experience and the positive feelings we had at the time,” writes Sonja Lyubomirsky, a psychology professor at the University of California, Riverside, in The Myths of Happiness.
Our family enjoys making a list of top ten funny moments, best meals, and favourite moments from each trip. We each make our own list and them them consolidate them into one big list which becomes a fun way to look back on our trip.
9. Say thank you
During your travels, you will likely experience kindness and friendliness from strangers, new friends, hotels or restaurants. Recognise when this happens, be thankful and express your gratitude. If someone went out of their way, you could even buy them a small gift or write a thank you. For excellent service, writing a positive online review for them goes a long way.
What other things do you do to be refreshed and re-energised after your time off? It will be great to hear from you.