We all instinctively know that people need a holiday every once in a while. It’s just not possible to work every single week of the year without eventually burning out. In fact, the motivation for working so hard for a lot of us is that precious holiday time where we can go somewhere new and be with our family and friends, or just reconnect with ourselves.
Plan for rest
The problem is that the pressure to have a wonderful holiday can actually lead to us feeling stressed and anxious. Trying to organise a holiday for a group of people is enough to induce anxiety in anyone, let alone someone who is already feeling stressed out by work! Not to mention the fact that holidays nearly never live up to the expectations that we have of them, meaning that we can sometimes spend our breaks feeling a little disappointed.
With all of the extra pressure that they can put on you, are holidays even that good for you? And should we be flitting off abroad, or is a staycation just what we need to help combat stress and anxiety?
Read on to find out how you can plan a holiday that will actually contribute to your wellbeing, and mean that you come home feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.
Holidays are good for your health
A study published in the journal of Psychosomatic Medicine indicated that holidays are indeed good for your health. The study followed a sample of middle-aged men who were at risk from coronary heart disease (CHD) were monitored over a nine-year period and questioned specifically on the frequency of holidays that they took. The study showed that there was a lesser risk of mortality amongst the men who took more frequent holidays.
One possible reason for this result is that holidays lower stress levels. Over long periods of time, stress can start causing health issues like high blood pressure, fatigue, and heart disease. It’s also a risk factor for other illnesses like obesity and Type 2 diabetes, so doing all that you can to minimize stress is definitely a positive thing for your overall health.
Reduce your stress
Lowering stress can also help to combat mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety, which severely impact your quality of life and come along with risks to physical health.
To be effective for your health, however, your trip must actually lower your stress levels rather than adding to them, so it’s important that you plan your trip with this in mind.
Combat holiday anxiety
There are a few reasons why holidays can actually cause anxiety for some people:
- The burden of planning a trip often falls to one person. Organising a holiday that a whole family will find exciting and enjoyable is a lot of pressure to put on someone! If you are the sole organiser for a trip, you can feel responsible for everyone else having a good time, and not only that, but you are the only one making bookings and dealing with issues as they arise. To avoid this, if you are taking a holiday with a group of people, then try to spread the organisation and decision-making out amongst as many people as possible. Google docs is a great way to put all of your holiday organisation paperwork into one place where everyone can access it.
- Unrealistic expectations. As much as you might want it to be the case, it’s unlikely that you will spend your entire holiday perfectly connected with your family or friends and having a wonderful time. You are humans. You will get bored, cranky, hungry and tired on holiday just like you do at home and that’s OK!
- Financial pressures. If you only get one holiday a year, it can be tempting to push the boat out on a lavish once-in-a-lifetime type trip. However, if you end up worrying about paying it off, then it probably isn’t worth it. Before you start planning your trip, make a budget that you can comfortably afford, and be sure to plan within that budget.
- Overindulgence. It’s natural to want to go wild on holiday, and eat lots of food and drink lots of alcohol! The thing is that just like when you’re at home, eating a lot of sugary food and drinking a lot isn’t going to make you feel good. It’s likely to leave you feeling lethargic and run down and unable to really engage with your trip and the people who are with you on it, so it’s worth thinking about that.
- Overplanning. Your holiday is a break, so don’t feel that you have to plan activities for every single day!
Bear these factors in mind when you are planning, and you will be able to mitigate holiday anxiety and get the most out of your trip.
Staycation vs. a trip somewhere new
Both staycations and trips abroad will have a positive impact on your stress levels and your wellbeing.
Staycations are probably the lower stress option of the two, particularly for people travelling as a family with children in tow. They are often cheaper, and if you find the right place, you will be able to bring pets along with you, which is great news for those of you who find yourself missing Fido while you’re away! Travel can be done by car or train, which means you can avoid airports and all of the associated stress that comes with flying.
However, going abroad can give you the opportunity to experience a whole new culture, and that experience will be valuable to you when you come back home. You’ll be able to experience new ways of doing things and see sights that you wouldn’t have been able to otherwise. Plus, if you go abroad, you can choose somewhere with a climate that you really enjoy, whereas staying nearer to home won’t often give you that option (depending on where you live, of course).
Use the time to reconnect with family and friends
If you want to make the most out of a trip with family or friends, then it makes sense to use the time to reconnect with them. It’s useful to bear this in mind when you’re planning your trip. You probably won’t want to spend the entire time together as one big group, after all, you’re all individuals with different interests, and you’re likely to start getting bored and sick of one another if you do that!
You’ll actually get more out of your holiday if you don’t try to force everyone to be social all of the time. Make your holiday plans bearing in mind the temperament of your family members. For example, got a kid who likes to spend a lot of time with their head in a book? Don’t plan activities for them all day every day, compromise by allowing them quiet time but also booking activities which they can share with other members of the family and therefore bond over.
A holiday that promotes reconnection will have a few thoughtfully planned activities, as well as a lot of unstructured time where people can do as they choose.
Use the time to reconnect with yourself
As well as reconnecting with family and friends, it’s important that you use your holiday to get a little bit of ‘me’ time. In the hustle and bustle of daily life, we get so caught up in what we need to be doing next that we can completely forget to check in with ourselves and how we are feeling, which is one of the reasons so many people feel stressed and overwhelmed.
Take some time on your holiday to reconnect with yourself. Take a walk by yourself, do some meditation, or visit a landmark or monument that speaks to you. If you’re a crafty person, holidays can be a great opportunity to break out a small craft project. You could even do some crafting with like-minded family members, reconnecting with yourself and with them in the process.
One great use of your holiday time is to start making a habit of regularly checking in with yourself and how you feel. You can do this with a quick body scan meditation. If you get into the habit while you’re on holiday and there is less pressure, you may find it easier to keep the habit up once you get back home.
Try out activities that get you moving
We all know that exercise is good for us. It helps to improve our physical health and has also been shown to be an important part of being mentally healthy.
Many of us never get started with exercise because it seems like hard work, and it’s tough to fit in around our daily responsibilities. However, if you can find a form of exercise that you find enjoyable, then it’s much easier to make a habit of doing it.
By doing a form of exercise that you enjoy, you can focus on moving your body for the fun of it, rather than the more negative motivator of doing exercise with the goal of losing weight or getting in shape. This means that you will benefit from it both physically and emotionally and that you are more likely to make a habit of it.
Holidays are a great opportunity to try out some activities that you would never get the chance to at home or that you would feel too self-conscious to try in a town where a lot of people know you. Make it a holiday goal to try out a few different activities to see what you think of them, knowing that you never have to see any of the people there again! You never know; you might find a new passion that you can bring home with you, that will have a positive impact on your health all year round.
Spend time outside
The Japanese have a practice called shinrin yoku or ‘forest bathing,’ which is used as a method of relaxation. Forest bathing is a simple process where you go out amongst the trees and be quiet and calm, simply observing your breath and the nature around you.
If you want to try forest bathing, then you could think about finding accommodation actually within a forest such as Away Resort’s holiday park New Forest, which affords you the opportunity to regularly step out amongst the trees for a few moments and enjoy the benefits that they bring. Forest bathing is a great way to reconnect both with nature and yourself.
Spending time outside is a powerful wellbeing tool. The sun is our only natural source of Vitamin D, which is important for our immune systems and is also thought to be an important factor in good mental health. Plus, being in an environment where there are a lot of plants is great for us as there are increased oxygen levels, which help with brain activity and fuels things like problem solving and creativity. We will often feel more alert and happier in an oxygen-rich environment.
Find opportunities for learning
If you struggle with low confidence or low self-esteem, then using your holiday as a learning opportunity could be of real benefit.
Research shows that learning new skills is beneficial to wellbeing because it gives us a sense of purpose, and if we are doing it with other people, it will help us to feel connected with them. Even if you learn a new skill by yourself, that learning can be a gateway to communities of people who are doing the same thing, which can in itself create a connection.
The low down
The feeling of achievement that comes along with learning something new is a boost to self-esteem and confidence, so it’s definitely a good idea to use your holiday as an opportunity for learning. If you’re visiting a new city, then take the opportunity to learn some history perhaps, or if you are planning more of an activities-based holiday, be sure to include some that you aren’t already confident with. You’ll come away with a new sense of achievement and perhaps even a new hobby or skill to build on for the rest of your life.