Think differently about your holiday this year
4 min read
6 Aug 2020

I am too busy to take a holiday

Most people I know are working longer hours and feel busier than ever. It doesn’t feel like a good time to be away from work. They are quietly scared that taking time out may impact their job security, their targets for the year, or their standing within the organization.

With additional worries about the safety of travel and leisure activities and cancellations or rule changes everywhere, it may feel better to push your holiday down the priority list. It would be easier to save the days for a time when there isn’t so much going on and you can make the most of it.

Why should I take a holiday (or at least a break for a few days at home)?

1)     Taking a proper, prolonged break from work has been shown to increase productivity, replenish attention, and ability to focus, encourage creativity, and a gradual reduction in the worries that build up relatively unnoticed over time.

2)     Our body requires downtime to restore our energy, both mental and physical. The benefits have been shown to last for weeks beyond the holiday itself with fewer stress-related physical problems such as headaches, backaches, heart irregularities, lower blood pressure, better sleep.

3)     Time in a different environment removes the anxiety we feel from being surrounded by our perceived stressors and reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

4)     Downtime is an essential time for our brain to process stored bits of data and information, to make sense of what it has learned, and to deal with unresolved tension and events in our lives. 2020 has been eventful and stressful … take some time to process what has happened. Even if we don’t realize it yet!

5)     Winding down takes practice. When we don’t take time to unwind from external stresses it gets increasingly difficult for the mind and body to relax. Neural connections strengthen the more we use them. When we are constantly on the go and mentally pushing through our day we rely on the pathways that keep us alert and weaken the pathways which promote calm. This makes it even harder to shift into a relaxed, less-stressed mode when we need or want to.

6)     But most importantly, at least in my opinion, is that people who take a break have been shown to come back more motivated to achieve their goals. With the distance from the office, we are able to put the tasks, efforts, and stresses of our daily life into perspective. This keeps us aligned with what is most important to us in life – reconnects us with our values and sense of self. When we return we are better able to stay on track, less likely to drift where the prevailing office wind takes us.

How can I make sure my holiday really is downtime?

Planning and mindset are key for a work-free break

–       Be clear and upfront about going on holiday with colleagues and external contacts. It’s easy to think that others will judge you for taking time off… but I assure you that come the end of the year they won’t remember if you took holiday… and they definitely won’t remember if you didn’t.

–      Be realistic about what you really can or need to get done before you go. Often more can be handed over to colleagues than we would like to believe; ask if it is urgent.

–      If you are going to struggle to switch off completely acknowledge and plan for it. Disable alerts. Decide when you will check your email and for how long, agree it with whomever you are holidaying with and stick to it. I do 30 minutes at the end of the day, and put it in a draw for the rest of the time.

–      Don’t set yourself unrealistic holiday goals. Pick a couple of things you can commit to, that will help revive you mentally and physically rather than a long list of “must-dos” that starts to resemble a tick-list of chores. Doing nothing is life-productive not idleness.

–      Try to plan things that change your environment and mental state. If you are staying at home, look for inspiration on AirBNB experiences – pretend to be a tourist in your home town.

–      Check your own expectations with those you are holidaying with. Nothing ruins a holiday faster than guilt for not meeting your own expectations, or a “discussion” about not meeting someone else’s.

Think of your holiday this year as an investment in your ability to thrive through the rest of 2020. 

My Spanish holiday plans have been canceled, so I have replaced them with a couple of UK breaks and some days exploring London as a “tourist”.

What have you got planned to rest and recuperate?


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Over the years, as an ambitious employee, team focused manager and supportive friend, I developed a deep understanding of the challenges and pressures that we all face not only day to day but also in our long-term  health, happiness and career development.

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