You look forward to your holiday for weeks, if not months, yet when it comes around, stress tends to skyrocket. You push yourself as hard as you can before you go away. Then, when you come back, you jump straight back into work in full force. This is a recipe for disaster – and for burnout. You need to learn how to manage stress in an effective way, both before and after your holiday. If you don’t, you’ll end up losing the benefits that a holiday is meant to give you.
Let’s start with how to manage your stress before your holiday. If you’re like me, you might create an uber ambitious to-do list for all the things you want to wrap up before going away. Often, this list has probably a month’s worth of work rather than a week’s. Yet, you convince yourself you can get it all done that final week before your holiday. You also believe that you will feel so much better for doing so. Newsflash: you won’t!
Why? Because your stress levels will skyrocket in that final week before your holiday. You won’t only be wrapping up your work but probably making final holiday arrangements as well. You’ll try to work almost to the minute the taxi arrives to pick you up to the airport. You might even try to squeeze a few final emails out through your phone at the airport. Two words: Just don’t.
It’s so not worth it. You’ll end up so frazzled and stressed boarding the plane that you’ll barely even notice you’re about to go on holiday. It will take days for your mind to calm down, and by that time half of your holiday might already be behind you. Your body might have taken such a big hit in that final stressful week that it might fall ill after your adrenaline and cortisol levels crash. That means you’ll spend the majority of your holiday nursing yourself to health rather than enjoying yourself fully.
So how do you avoid this from happening? Here is what I recommend:
1. Identify the most urgent things to do before your holiday – and do only them.
One of the biggest causes of pre-holiday stress is trying to get as much done as possible before you go away. In reality, you should be getting less done than your other weeks so that you can start to wind down for holiday mode. That’s why you should only identify the urgent things to do – and let the rest be. The rest can wait.
2. Give yourself at least half a day before your holiday to get ready for it.
That means no work, no agenda items, and no rushing around. This half day is for you to start to unwind so that you can start calming your mind down and getting into holiday mode. It will also give you time to finalise your packing and start getting excited about the holiday. Do not go straight from the office to the airport, or have fifteen to-dos to complete on the day you start your travels. This is guaranteed to increase your stress levels and prevent you from enjoying the start of your holiday.
3. Set your out-of-office – and stick to it.
For the first three years I ran my business, I checked my email during holidays. I had an out-of-office but I still felt like I needed to check just in case there was something urgent. Yet there never was. And I ended up burning out. When I went to the doctor to ask for help, she asked: “When was the last holiday you did absolutely nothing?” I couldn’t remember – and that’s when I knew I had to be stricter on myself.
Now, I put my out-of-office on a day before I travel and I don’t check it once when I’m on holiday. I delete the email app from my phone to make this easier for me. Does the world come falling down when I don’t check my email for one or two weeks? No, it does not. In fact, it becomes a happier, more fulfilling place as I then come back to work fully recharged and excited to get started again.
So what happens when you get back into work? You open your inbox and you have hundreds, if not thousands, of unanswered emails. You look at your most important projects and remind yourself of what is urgent and what is not. All of a sudden, it all starts to pile up on you, and you start to feel anxious. Yet, you’ve only been back at work for an hour or two. That’s why it’s equally important to learn how to manage stress post-holiday. If not, you’ll end up banishing the benefits of that well earned break you just had.
Here are my recommendations for making it happen:
1. Give yourself at least half a day after your holiday before you jump into work.
Take this time to unpack, do some laundry, and fill the fridge with food. Do whatever you need to do to wrap up the holiday bits and slowly start getting back into your day-to-day routine. When you do this, you’re much more likely to suffer from less stress going back into work because your personal bits are already sorted. You will also feel more prepared going back into work like this, and you’ll be able to rest more when you come home after work. This is important as the first week back at work will be more tiring than usual because you’re simply not used to it yet. Take it easy and take your time.
2. Limit your meetings and scheduled commitments the first week back.
This enables you to focus on dealing with your overflowing inbox and getting your priorities straight. The worst thing you can do is have back-to-back meetings the first few days with little or no time to actually catch up on what you’ve missed. Keep your calendar as clear as possible and get started on categorising your unread emails. Split them into categories like urgent, non-urgent, quick responses, and no action needed. Then, start by focusing on the urgent ones (one-by-one!), before diving into the quick responses. The more you focus on doing one thing at a time, and similar things within a certain time frame, the more efficient you will be.
3. Up your fun the week you’re back.
Go out for a meal with your friends. Walk your favourite route in your neighbourhood. Look at the pictures from your holiday. Post holiday blues can be very common if you go straight into all work and no play. Hence make a little time for play your first week back – and the weeks that follow. This will help you to feel happy and energised even though your holiday is behind you.
Now I’d love to hear from you. Do you have your very own tips on how to manage stress pre- and post-holiday? Comment below with your insights and inspire the rest of the Happyologist readers with them.
With that, I wish you a lovely holiday if you’re about to head on one – and good luck in your adventures!
With love, light and happiness,
P.S. If you’re looking for more one-on-one help on this, be sure to check out my coaching offers ;)