Is your holiday stressing you out?

Is your holiday stressing you out?

Believe it or not, that “recharge”? time at the end of the year can actually not be too beneficial if done the wrong way. Here are some tips to make the most of your December vacation

Once upon a time you went on a holiday that you had been looking forward to for months. Everything had been planned down to the last detail. This was going to provide the break you needed and a boost your tired batteries. You were looking forward to returning refreshed and ready to face the urban jungle once again.

So why were you bored by day two, had more arguments than fun with your partner and returned to work feeling exhausted and demoralised?

First, it may be because your expectations were just too high. Miracles do happen and politicians occasionally tell the truth, but far too often the fairy tale-like rejuvenating qualities we bestow upon a holiday are just unrealistic.

If you have been doing battle in the urban arena for several months – overworking, not getting enough sleep, eating badly and so on – a few days on a beach or in the mountains are unlikely to provide the kind of recharge you need.

Second, and probably more likely, you may simply be going on the wrong type of holiday. Just as we don’t all respond the same way to stressors (think of one of your colleagues who loves standing up and giving presentations and another who gets all sweaty and panicky at the mere thought) there is no universal de-stressing holiday.

We are products of our upbringing, cultural and religious beliefs, education, health, skills, experience, views, assumptions and many other elements. We also have base personality types that correspond with broad preferences and behaviours.

I have what is known as a Type-A personality – I am a perfectionist, time-urgent control freak who loves to get involved in far too many projects and finish people’s sentences for them. I can think of no greater purgatory than to be put on a beach in the middle of the Indian Ocean with nothing but the tides to contemplate for a week or two; I’ll become hyper-stressed. I’m not saying I need my laptop/tablet/smartphone as a constant companion, but I do need a variety of stimuli to nourish me. I want to go sightseeing; I want to sample the local culture, food and music; I want to do something I wouldn’t usually do at home – snorkel, rent a scooter, zip-line through the forest.

Of course nothing is ever as simple as the broad generalisation described here. However, if your last holiday left you feeling like last weeks porridge, consider the following:

• Do you get bored easily? Do you like the thought of doing nothing rather than the actual experience? If so, you are probably a lot like me and perhaps should:
• Take shorter breaks more frequently; a shorter time spent doing something you like versus spending loads of time doing something you don’t will be far more beneficial.
• Choose destinations that have a variety of activities that interest you (and your partner).
• Make time for your partner to indulge his or her particular holiday interests so that you can indulge in yours without feeling guilty.
• Make sure there are plenty of activities for your children. One thing I have learned (the hard way) is that if your children are not enjoying themselves, neither will you.

• Get out into nature – research shows that even looking at pictures of nature boosts the production of oxytocin (sometimes referred to as the “love hormone”?) and lowers blood pressure;

• Schedule “off weekends” where you stay at home and have nothing planned. Lower the budget; lower your expectations and you may be pleasantly surprised.

• Lastly, be spontaneous – children’s author Derek Landy sums this up: Plans are an invitation to disappointment.” And Germaine Greer, controversial author, academic and campaigner for women’s liberation, says, “The essence of pleasure is spontaneity.”?

Ditch the lists, pick up a last-minute deal and abandon yourself to the excitement.

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