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Taking a break from stress

Taking a break from stressEven if you’re holidaying closer to home this year – camping at Camber Sands rather than downing cocktails on the Costas – you’ll still be hoping for some quality downtime with your partner, children or other family and friends. The idea is that you leave your worries at home and just live in the moment and recharge your batteries.

Are holidays really that relaxing? Do you end up working yourself into the ground before you go – clearing your in-tray, packing in a mad rush and getting stressed about making check-in on time?

Do we expect too much?

When you factor in the high cost of holidays, sorting out pet care, arranging currency, local health worries, language problems, air traffic controller strikes, flight delays, bugs you pick up on the plane and resort crime, is it really worth the effort?

Why holidays can be hellish

“Although escape and rest should be the perfect antidote to stress, anxiety and worry, the sad fact is that, unless you take some simple steps to manage your holiday plans and priorities, you could end up buckling under the pressure,” explains psychologist Judi James.

“The good news is that, with some forward planning, delegation and realistic expectations, you can switch off and enjoy your holiday with minimum stress.”

Choose your destination carefully

  • Holiday close to home: If you’re constantly worrying about air traffic controller strikes or volcano eruptions, stay in the UK. No airports, luggage queues, jabs or forgotten passports, you really can just get up and go. You might even be able to take the dog with you, rather than feeling bad about the sad little face that you left behind at the kennels. There may not be as much sun but fresh air and rain really can be more relaxing than topping up a tan. Youngsters actually prefer the structure and familiarity of visiting the same place every year too.
  • Choose a quiet location: If you really want to chill out, choose somewhere sleepy. A quiet but windy beach is better for relaxation than a crowded noisy sunny one. “Tuning into the sight and sound of the sea is a great antidote to stress,” says Judi; “the rhythm of the waves is calming and the sight of that endless stretch of water lets you put your worries into context.”
  • Find something for everyone: Be realistic about what you want from your holiday. An isolated villa may look great in the brochure but your children may get bored and start squabbling; you and your partner may fight over who will drive to the taverna every night. “Negotiate, explain and understand what each member of your family needs before you go to make sure that everyone’s requirements are catered for,” explains Judi.

Before you go

  • Be realistic: Don’t try to finish all your outstanding tasks before you go. “Too many people burn themselves out during the weeks before their holiday,” comments Judi; “this can lead to a pre-holiday crisis caused by stress and exhaustion, which can mean heightened levels of irritability and worries about things while you are on holiday.”
     
  • Delegate to colleagues: Give them a degree of freedom to make their own decisions though. “Leaving strict instructions and over-detailed guidelines will make your colleagues anxious and dependent. Rather than making their own decisions while you’re away, they’ll be contacting you all the time to check they’re doing the right thing,” says Judi.
  • Book a house-sitter: If you’re worried about your plants, post and pets or the possibility of a burglary, try booking a house-sitter. Sometimes it works out cheaper than kennels for the dog and it will definitely create peace of mind.
  • Take a day off to pack and chill out: You don’t want to be rushing around right up to the last minute. Try booking a massage or a pedicure to help you unwind. Come back from holiday on a Friday so you have the weekend to acclimatise before work.

While you’re away

  • Ban phones and PCs from your holiday: Being bored is an important part of resting and rebooting your over-busy brain.
  • Wind down gradually: If you have a high-pressure job, wind down gently as it might be courting disaster to suddenly do nothing on holiday – apart from eat, drink and sleep. Rather than recharging the batteries, this behaviour could make you more anxious and irritable.
  • Chill out by exercising: “Some gentle exercise will be a far better mood-enhancer and, when you do just chill, try combining your relaxation with something creative like photography or sketching as it will give your mind a vital change of pace and focus,” says Judi; “doing nothing can allow your brain to continue to chew over work or other worries.”
  • Make some house rules: If you’re holidaying with others, make it clear you don’t have to do everything together and divide up jobs like cooking and shopping.

If you have any questions or comments about how to take the stress out of holidays, then you can ask our panel of experts

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