The summer holiday season is fast approaching and you're looking forward to your time off. But first, it’s time to clear off your desk and wrap up all those unfinished tasks.
But this last-minute rush is so stressful, you start your holiday with your nervous system in overdrive.
You start sneaking into your hotel room to check emails, texts and missed calls. You feel guilty for missing work. Then you feel even guiltier for not appreciating holiday time with your family, kids and friends. Halfway through the vacation, panic kicks in about the work mountain you face on your return. You start to crave some alone time, not days spent playing round the pool. And then, having spent a fortune on a dream holiday, you get back to your desk feeling even more stressed than before.
Hey, look at the great tan, though. Photos of the kids. Tales of all those sunny days…
The biggest holiday stress triggers
Sounds familiar? Then you’re not alone. Research shows that nearly one out of five experiences a summer holiday that’s more stressful than their everyday life. But why?
We can’t let go of our work – A consequence of committing our heart, soul, pride and passion into our careers is that there are no longer any clear lines between our work and private lives. Many of us are so used to self-management that we often feel stressed and guilty about leaving the office with unfinished tasks in the hands of others, regardless of how capable they are.
The smartphone - This device has quickly dominated our work lives and shattered the divide between the professional and the social life. Any time, anywhere, we can check-in at work, world news and social media. The ‘always online’ nature of the smartphone leaves us all with little time for the mental breaks our brains and nervous systems are craving.
Family time - We are not used to spending dedicated periods of time together. And when we do take family holidays, we expect everything to be perfect, even though, if we think about it, we know that’s unrealistic.
In fact, maybe we can agree to that nothing is perfect. Maybe actually imperfect is perfect?
1. Skip perfection, settle for awesome instead
There’s lots of advice available on how to get the perfect holiday and avoid stress before, during and after. Just shut all that work-related stuff out, detox from your digital devices, concentrate on just being present in the moment in all you do and with all your relations. You’ve heard it all before.
And it’s great advice, right? The thing is, it’s not necessarily possible.
The problem is that we cannot be present in all we do or simply shut down on command. We might want to ignore everything about work in order to enjoy our summer holidays but that’s not how people are wired. We have been raised to be effective, action-orientated, flexible and dynamic.
Attentive presence is not something we have been taught or required by society and Western culture. Hopefully that’s changing as there’s a raised awareness of mindfulness in daycare and schools today.
Our thoughts and feelings frequently control our minds. We cannot just empty our minds and be present on demand. It takes time (and priority) to train your mind to do that.
So instead of worrying, wouldn’t it just be a relief to let go of the high expectations of a perfect holiday and instead practise having a really, really good time, “be with what is” regardless of a few minor hiccups along the way?
2. “I am responsible for me, and I have a choice”
Unwanted non-holiday situations will always arise. But how you deal with them is your choice. It's your choice how you respond to situations, thoughts and unexpected occurrences that you come across.
Victor Frankl puts it this way: “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
3. One breath at a time
Practise "being with what is". Accept what comes up without judging or feeling guilty – even when you really do have to check your smartphone. Notice all your feelings and thoughts – good or bad – and accept your worries, but don’t give them any particular attention. Just feel them and then let them go.
How about taking your holiday one breath at a time? Our breathing is always with us and it’s an easy and effective way to ground ourselves in the present moment. Focusing on our breath even for a little while calms both our body and mind.
One easy way to practise your breathing and awareness is to take three deep breaths every time you wash your hands. Or maybe after you check your phone ;).
Simply breathe in and out very slowly. Can you feel how your heart rate drops and your mind relaxes instantly?
I invite you to try a two-minute guided breathing exercise by TimeXtender’s mindfulness instructor, Jamie Rae Mathis. Experience the benefits for yourself.
If you are interested in learning more about calming your nervous system simply by breathing correctly, I can recommend reading more at: www.breatheology.com/delicate-nervous-system/
Just breathe… and smile…
We wish you all the best for your summer holidays.