A study in the Netherlands found that vacationers, once they return to work, are no happier than non-vacationers. With all the stress surrounding a vacation, including finishing up work before leaving and returning to the work one has missed, this is not a surprise. However, the problem is more than likely worse in a nation that discourages vacations entirely, such as the U.S. Time off is a major source of anxiety, despite it being earned time off. And stress is seen to come most often before or after a vacation. So how can we reduce this stress without sacrificing workplace productivity?
It can be extremely valuable to pick up a meditation routine. But if you don’t feel like engaging in the full process of meditation, consider just sitting and breathing as an exercise. It is amazing just how much a breathing exercise can help you to relax. Sit cross-legged with a tall spine in a calm, quiet area and focus on your breath with your eyes closed. Try to focus on what you want from the approaching vacation.
Make a list
Prioritize your tasks up to a few weeks before your vacation. Be sure to get them approved by your manager. Make the most essential tasks top priorities and the least essential tasks the lowest on the list. With this list as your guide, plan out your work for each day. Although other tasks will pop up, stick to your list — to your priorities. If you don’t, the tasks, along with the stress, will pile up.
Sound the horn
Ensure all of your bosses, colleagues and clients know that you are planning a vacation and the dates that you will be gone. Consider even telling these people that you won’t be reachable during your vacation. This will help lessen stress surrounding being in-touch during your vacation. You should also put on your “out of office” notice on your work email and consider also putting the dates that you will be away in your email signature.
Straighten up your desk
Although it may seem counterintuitive to add tasks to your list before you leave for vacation, studies have shown that clutter can increase stress. A cleaner workspace to return to will help ease your return from vacation.
Some people are very goal-oriented at work, and it serves them well. Consider bringing some of that same focus to your vacation: For example, decide that you will focus on being more joyful and calm this vacation. Or make another list of things you are going to do and not going to do this vacation. I will read one book, and I will not check my phone until 8 at night.
Instead of just pretending to step away from your work, actually plan on doing it during vacation. Try limiting your technology use. It will help you appreciate your time off more fully and give you the detox that you fully deserve.
If you are in nature, immerse yourself in nature. If you are in the city, immerse yourself in the city. The important part is taking an active interest in your surroundings. Notice the sights and sounds of the experience. Although this can be easier said than try to entirely enjoy the moment in which you are in.
Make a plan
You don’t have to jump right back into it immediately the second your foot is in the door of your workplace. Doing so will only overwhelm you. Instead, make a plan to make a plan. As in, write out another list of priorities. Give yourself time to piece through what is on your plate for the week and make a strategy for tackling it in a relatively stressless yet productive manner.
Figure out what you missed and what needs to be done. Seek information from appropriate colleagues or your boss to figure these things out. Also, thank anybody who may have covered for you and ask them what they need from you now. If you have to read a torrential downpour of emails, search out emails from your boss and read those first.
Do a quick check-in
With yourself, that is. Check to see if you feel rejuvenated and recharged from your vacation. Ask yourself if you are feeling joyful, energized or calm. Take a moment to remember some of the best experiences of your trip.
Vacations from work can either be a torment of anxiety and stress or they can be the relaxed getaway that you needed to recharge your proverbial batteries. It often depends on whether you prepare ahead of time. And while preparing ahead of time may seem counterintuitive to a vacation, the reality is that preparation is always a good thing. And, in the case of vacation, it might just make the difference between a vacation that you return from feeling recharged and a vacation that you return from feeling the same or even more stressed out than before.
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