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Holiday… Celebrate? How to manage holiday stress and actually relax!

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Holiday… Celebrate? How to manage holiday stress and actually relax!

Rebecca Morley

Vacation stress

I’ve just got back from a 10 day break in Majorca. Big picture, it was bliss. 10 days of late starts, long breakfasts, sunny, breezy boat watching from the balcony and afternoons spent by the pool. What could be better? Well to start off with, my head could have been in a much better place. If you, like me, feel as though holiday stress, and the pressure to have an instahappy time makes it feel far from relaxing at times then at least take comfort in the fact that we are not alone – a quick google search on vacation stress returned 179 million results!


I’m a creature of routine. It’s a necessary evil with a small child but I’ve always struggled with holidays, they discombobulate me, they leave too much time for reflection and not enough time to ‘do’ when I’m used to doing ALL THE TIME. Doing, and keeping busy is how I manage the ‘volcano of self doubt’ – more on that next week! But broadly, as long as I’m working towards my goals I can manage those little niggling thoughts of ‘this will never work’ or ‘are you sure you should have left your big corporate job?’.


To manage this, and to make sure my husband and Alfred weren’t dragged down by my preoccupation, I did a bit of self coaching. And I decided to write down where I got to just in case there’s anyone else out there who feels the same as me! My clients will recognise the first step I took which is to break it down (a minor obsession of mine!) – I worked out there are 6 stages to my holiday headspace and corresponding thoughts, I’ve listed them below and, should they resonate with you, I’ve also suggested some coaching/mindset techniques that you can use to overcome them:


The build up


Thoughts - Oh. My. God. How am I EVER going to get everything done in time? How can I have forgotten to take that washing out to dry, I’m going to be up til 3 am, I’m going to have to take wet clothes again! Did I remember mosquito repellent, how about my chargers? Should I take my laptop?


My dad said something very sensible to me once which is that as long as you’ve got your passport and a credit card you can pretty much relax about your holiday packing as almost everything important is available everywhere these days. Unless you’re going somewhere incredibly remote, in which case I probably would class that as a trip rather than a holiday and I would guess it’s probably not to ‘relax’ per se, then you can live with a lot less than you probably think. Yet again this year I brought back at least 50% of my case unworn, especially shoes. So, my advice to you is start writing a list a few days before, take half as many shoes as you think you need and focus on doing things that will clear your head and your to-do list rather than fill your suitcase.


The arrival


Thoughts - Where is everything? This hotel isn’t like the last place we went? I’ve brought all the wrong clothes. We seem quite close to that noisy looking bar. It’s a bit cloudy. Do I really have to take my clothes off and wear a bikini in front of all these people?


There’s something called the change curve that describes how our feelings towards change develop as we understand more about exactly how it relates to us. It’s mostly used in a work environment to help people deal with their feelings around starting a new job for example but it works for both big and small changes alike. The curve starts with initial excitement followed by a crash when you realise some of the realities of your new situation and environment. Humans are creatures of habit, it makes us feel safe and less open to risk. Something like arriving at a new hotel or holiday home fires up all sorts of primal risk averse feelings. The trick is to recognise these feelings, step over them and carry on with your holiday! Don’t spend too much time or energy battling it, it will subside quickly. Try something as simple as unpacking and having a wander round the local area to orientate yourself.


The panic


Thoughts - How in gods name are we going to fill our days? We’re going to be BORED! There’s nothing to do except eat and read.


When you’re used to being on the go all the time and squeezing a million and one things in to your days the change of pace on holiday can be very difficult to get used to even when you thought you were desperate for it. And when you’re putting yourself under pressure to HAVE A NICE TIME and RELAX PROPERLY then paradoxically it can feed your anxiety even more. These days I recognise the panic for what it is and I’m able to ride it out for the day or so that it lasts, much to the relief of my husband.


The crash


Thoughts - I’m SO tired. I just want to lie here and sleep. Come back and get me in a couple of days. Dinner? Can I go in my bikini?


Once you’re over the panic and you start to relax you can usually expect to experience THE CRASH. It happens around 5 or 6 days in when your body catches up with where you are and recognises that your stress levels are starting to fall. Cue your body trying to take it that one step further and pull you down to zero miles per hour. The best thing to do here is go with it. Don’t fight it. Maybe even plan for it? Don’t try and squeeze every last tourist trap into your social media feed.


The go-slow


Thoughts - How are we ever going to go back to working full time? Breakfast takes 2 hours at least and then it’s just a gentle slide into lunch and then dinner. What on earth were we thinking booking meetings for the day we get back?


This is the opposite of the panic and your body’s way of making sure you relax properly for at least some of your break. Enjoy it and as it’s usually towards the end of your time away, try not to fight it by thinking of all the things you’ve got to do when you get back. The go-slow part of you won’t like that, and you’ll stress yourself out way more than is necessary.


The homecoming


I think the way you feel about coming home largely depends on what sort of holiday you’ve had. It can range from feeling as though you’ve had a nice break but you’re glad to get back to feeling as though you need another holiday to get over the one you’ve just been on! Either way, I find the best ways to deal with coming home are to be as organised as humanly possible to give your brain a chance to get up and running once you’re back. A couple of minor but helpful things I’ve learned are:


-       Try to pack your suitcases in a way that makes it easy to unpack when you get home. You’ll be more likely to want to tackle it and less likely to leave your unpacking festering for weeks!

-       Try not to book too much in for your first couple of days back. Clearing the decks and getting back on track will help you keep hold of that holiday feeling for a teesny bit longer

-       Arrange for a friend or neighbour to stick a couple of bottles of milk and a loaf of bread in the fridge for your return

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