PSYCHOTHERAPIST GERALDINE JOAQUIM ON SEPARATING STRESS & HOLIDAYS
Holidays are meant to be relaxing, right? Well, we recently ran a study which found that just over 37% of holidaymakers check their work emails/make work calls while they’re away, with almost a third saying they struggle to switch off from their everyday lives when they’re on holiday - meaning we’re not getting the break from work that we need.
So, how can we make sure we’re leaving the stresses behind the next time we jet off? Geraldine Joaquim, a psychotherapist specialising in stress and mental health issues in the workplace, has given us some tips to make sure that your next holiday is stress-free - and that you leave work behind!
As the summer appears, many people start thinking about holidays. You might have already booked your annual trip abroad, or opted for a staycation. Maybe you’ve opted for a last minute break to save yourself some hassle, or are planning a trip later in the year. Whatever your preferences are, having at least one annual holiday is very much a part of our modern lives.
Part of the great appeal of having a holiday is in the planning: choosing where to go from a vast range of locations (albeit constrained by budget), picking dates and getting down to booking. Even the pain/pleasure of handing over the cash (or more often, the plastic) is an essential part of the process.
When we have a holiday booked, we get almost as much benefit from the anticipation as we do from actually being there. If we’re having a bad day we might remember we have that holiday to come, and momentarily imagine sitting by the pool or on the beach, or anticipate the evening cocktails, the feeling of the sun on our skin, swimming, snorkelling, resting beneath shady palm trees, visiting historic sites or seeing animals in their natural habitats.
We might think about the shopping, the nightlife, the buzz of a city, or maybe the laughter and fun with children...and whilst we're doing that, our brains are releasing serotonin, our 'happy' hormone. The emotional, primitive part of our brain cannot tell the difference between imagination and reality - so when we imagine the good stuff, our brain reacts as if it's really happening.
When it gets closer to the holiday, however, you might feel the pressure of getting work done, doing the last minute shopping, confirming arrangements. This is when it can start to feel like much less fun. So how do you stop that happening, how do you keep the enjoyment and anticipation of the holiday going right up to the moment you set off?
5 TIPS TO HELP YOU REALLY ENJOY YOUR HOLIDAY
1. Plan to finish work the day before your holiday - and that's not a typo! Most people work right up until a deadline, so if you set the day before you go on holiday as the deadline you can be sure you'll be working up to the wire. If you work from home, this can even mean right up until you head to the airport - which just adds to the stress of getting out of the door. When you set the day before the day before as a deadline, you give yourself a buffer for those last minute issues that might pop up, or just to have a more relaxed departure.
2. Get your ducks in a row - don't leave passport renewal, kennel booking, inoculations, visas, travel insurance or other arrangements to the last minute. When you know your dates, start making all the arrangements you need in order to make sure you leave without last-minute stresses. Make a list and allocate jobs to other people where possible, to make it easier on you.
3. Bring your head on holiday too - it's all too easy these days to be present in body but not in spirit. We wear so many hats in our daily lives that it's easy to stay in that automatic pilot mode, particularly thinking about the work you've left behind: will your colleagues cope? What if that big client calls? etc. Just stop. It will be fine, and you will benefit hugely from the break - and be ready to dive back in when you get back.
4. Get some sleep - no body thrives on too little sleep. Anyone who has had a baby or toddler knows that poor sleep is the fastest way to stress overload. When we don't get enough sleep we become irritable and snappy, we eat badly (trying to get energy from sugary foods) and then feel guilty afterwards, we have poor judgement, become argumentative, lose our sense of humour, and might feel tearful or overwhelmed. Have a good wind-down routine: start dimming or turning some lights off roughly 90 minutes before you go to sleep to encourage melatonin release (the hormone that makes us sleepy), switch off tablets and mobiles, have a last drink or snack, and make your bedroom a 'boredom' zone.
5. Do a sanity check - at least a week before your date of travel, print out and gather together all the paperwork, passports, insurance documents etc, and go through them to make sure you know what to expect. Check your travel plans (who's taking you to the airport?) or look up routes if driving, order any currency you need, buy travel toiletries - make sure you've covered the essentials. The day before travel, check any updates in case of last minute changes, and weather reports if that might impact you. Planning ahead is the key to making sure you feel in control.
And finally, remember to enjoy your holiday - you’ve waited long enough for it to come!
Looking to treat yourself to a holiday where you can truly relax? All inclusive trips are the ultimate stress-free experience, leaving you to make the most of sun, sea, sand, and plenty of snacks without spending big, or lifting a finger. Or, if you’ve left your holiday browsing a little late for the summer, our late deals are the perfect way to ensure you still get to make the most of your trip.
For more tips on how to unwind while on holiday, check out our short "What does your holiday look like?" series for real-life answers by busy working bloggers.