Holidays can be stressful

Preparing for holidays adds to our stress level and can sometimes add to existing issues and trigger a problem

Extra Stress before Holidays

Most workers and family carers will face extra demands before they depart. In some cases, this can lead to a 30% increase in workload. However, proper preparation can help you to relax more quickly once you arrive

During Holidays

Family patterns change on holiday and can lead to additional tension. Travel of course produces its own anxieties and stress. We can also increase the physical stress on our bodies by overindulging and rates or accident and illness also rise on holiday.

Relaxed? Many people find it hard to relax on holiday yet it is obviously important to do this. Resist the temptation to speed about seeing everything, especially in the first few days. Take time to adjust to climate, time zones and the local pace of life.

Enjoy but Take Care

Every year 1.7m need time off work as result of accident or illness sustained on holiday.

Think about work!

That's right! Holidays are a good time to reflect on work and whether where you are going in your career. Plan your goals and think about what you need to achieve them.


Many people find it hard to relax on holiday yet it is obviously important to do this. Resist the temptation to speed about seeing everything, especially in the first few days. take time to adjust to climate, time zones and the local pace of life.

Take the Holiday Home

Take mental picture of a relaxing part of the holiday and return to it when you need to find a bit of calm in the stressful world of work once home. Learn ways to deal with stress at work Assertiveness, relaxation techniques and effective time management can all be learned. You may benefit from professional help in acquiring these skills.

See the links above for more information, especially coaching, anxiety and assertiveness.

This information is taken from an interview I did with Real Radio FM in 2007.

Holidays are Stressful - Why?

Lovers walk hand-inhand into a sunset. Photo: Arvind Balaraman

Many people look forward to a well-earned holiday, especially if they work hard and experience stress at work or in the home but as this article explains, that "well earned" break can provide its own stresses and strains.  According to a report of research conducted for Office Angels with 660 office workers, more than half of employees feel stressed  about their workload before taking a holiday. Three out of four of those polled said they kept their mobile phones on during a holiday as a "lifeline" to the office. 

Need a holiday? Beware of Extra Stress  

A holiday is often thought of as a well-earned rest from work-related stress. The fact is, the holiday itself can be a source of increased stress. You may need to spend extra time at work or with the family preparing and planning for the holiday. Modern travel is also extremely stressful and long-distance travel across several time zones can also make things worse. Once you are there, you will probably find yourself spending much more time with the family than you do at home and this can also bring additional stress as the family unit is reconfigured and sorts out new ground rules for this new situation.

but first  ... A bit about stress

Stress in itself isn't necessarily harmful. We all need challenges and a certain amount of stress helps motivate us to achieve these challenges. However, too much stress can be harmful; it can affect our physical health and can act as a trigger for depression. Longer term, we may get locked into a cycle of stress and increasing anxiety. To read about the relationship between anxiety and stress, click here

Tips for a relaxing Holiday

Ensure you Prepare but be realistic about what will happen while you're away

Preparing for your absence from work while you're on holiday could mean lots of extra work. These extra pressures could mean that you are even more tired by the time your holiday actually arrives. However, my experience suggests that most people tend to over prepare, spending ages preparing plans and notes about events they expect to happen while they are away, yet returning to find that very few of these things have actually happened during their absence. Much of this is driven by anxiety and insecurity; people are often worried that things will go wrong while they are away that they will get the blame for it. The reality however is probably that you are underestimating yourself; you are more valuable than you imagine and if things run less well while you're away, surely that demonstrates that value?

Workers are often put under pressure to meet a deadline or finish a project before going off on holiday. Try to assess such requests or demands in a realistic way. All too often, projects are completed at great cost before you depart on your holidays yet you will find that no one has done anything with the results of your labours by the time you get back. Try to keep a realistic and healthy perspective; remember that your health is more important.

Also, make sure that you schedule a proper handover of your work in progress. If you feel someone else understands what needs to be done while you are away, you will be able to feel more relaxed and more easily able to let go of your work knowing that it is in safe hands. This is important, so if colleagues or managers are busy, make sure you insist upon this.

Special notes for shift workers

People who work shifts often have particular problems both going away on and returning from holidays. This is because certain shift patterns are especially likely to be disrupted by one or two weeks spent living a normal cycle of day and night. When planning your holidays try to take into account shift patterns and choose a holiday departure that you feel will fit best with your ability to adjust.

Once on holiday remember to take it easy!

Make sure that you really do take time to relax, especially during the first few days when you will probably be winding down not only from work but also from the journey to the holiday destination. If you like to go off on trips, why not schedule these for later on during your holiday?

Enjoy yourself but don't overindulge

We all like to enjoy nice food and perhaps an extra drink or two on holiday but if you overindulge you could end up feeling worse both physically and psychologically when you get back. In August 2006 a GfK/NOP poll for Benenden Healthcare found that over 1.7 million people had to take days off to recover from their holidays after falling ill or having an accident during their trip. Overindulgence in alcohol increases your risk of accidents, makes you more likely to take inappropriate risks (with dodgy food or sexual behaviour for example). Plus, if you find the scales have gone crazy while you've been away you will feel less good about yourself when you get back.

Whilst on holiday think about work!

This may sound crazy but holidays are actually a really good time to reflect on work and life in general. Take advantage of having a little more time and reflect on where you are with your job and perhaps with your life in general. Are you getting what you want out of your career? Do you feel valued? What are your development goals for the next year? Perhaps the next five years? What do you need to ask for, perhaps in terms of training for example, in order to achieve this? Take time to write some of these things down so that you can refer to them again over the next 12 months and remind yourself of what you really want at times when you feel overwhelmed by the pressure of day-to-day activities.

Taking some time to think about these and the answers to some other questions can help you return to work feeling even more refreshed, in control and with a new sense of determination and direction.

Tips for Returning to work - Take the Holiday home with you

Many people feel some anxiety or even a sense of dread at the prospect of returning to what might be a stressful situation after having had a week or two of relaxation. Before you depart for the journey home, take yourself off to a particularly nice, beautiful or relaxing place in your holiday destination. Take a few moments to capture the scene and take a "mental photograph". Take time to ensure that you really capture the essence of the moment and store it away for future reference over the next few months. 

Ease back to work gently

When you do get back to work, make sure you ease yourself into it fairly gently. There is often the temptation to dive right back into it. Try to allow yourself at least a couple of days with a sensible schedule. Take time to catch up on what has been going on and make sure you tell your colleagues something about your holiday as this will help you to remember it for longer. When the pressure is on and you find yourself feeling stressed, find a quiet place and take a few moments to return to that mental picture that you took just before you departed. As you do so, make a conscious effort to regain contact with a sense of perspective that you no doubt had at the time you took the picture. Taking a few minutes to do this can help you get some sense of perspective on whatever is causing you stress at work and will hopefully help you to deal with it more effectively

Acknowledge your feelings

If you feel you are not coping with your workload speak to someone and seek support. Employers have a duty of care to cater for your psychological, as well as physical, health and safety. Remember that the aim is to be able to work sustainably and that holidays should be a kind of bonus rather than necessity that barely manages to keep you going.

Learn to value yourself

Does your employer really want someone who is a burned-out wreck? If you say yes to everything you will be taken for granted. If you really can't manage your workload, accept that it is okay to say 'no'. If your boss won't take 'no' for an answer then try to get him or her to agree to remove something else from your list of things to do. Although bosses sometimes act like they won't understand they can be surprisingly supportive once they realise that you have a problem. If this is difficult, or you find you get inappropriately angry asking for your needs to be met, you may have problems with assertiveness. Click here to read about this and take a test.

Find a job you love

Someone once said that if you find the right job for you, you will never work another day in your life! Finding a job you enjoy is the best antidote to the post-holiday blues. Whilst few of us like returning to work after a fabulous holiday, it is worth remembering that some people actually don't mind getting back to work so much. If you find yourself wondering about what's going on at work with a sense of anticipation and excitement, maybe you are in the right job after all. But if your last two nights away are spoilt by feelings of anxiety and dread, maybe it really is time to think about a change of environment. Coaching and Personal Development can help you get in touch with your career or life goals and support you in achieving them. For more info on this, click here.

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days gone by we might have talked our feelings over in confidence with perhaps an older or trusted member of what might of course have been quite a large extended family. Or we may have sought counsel from a priest, imam, rabbi or other religious or spiritual leader. Many people are still fortunate to be able to do this, however, many of us do not have this facility, or would feel uncomfortable with it. In such circumstances, an alternative is to speak to a counsellor. Many people prefer this, valuing the confidentiality. Some people say that it is easier or preferable to speak to an 'impartial' third party. 

In such cases the counsellor's role is to offer you a safe and non-judgmental space, to listen and to reflect with you on what they are hearing. They will listen out for and support you to be aware of, your feelings. They will support you to acknowledge all of your feelings, including any that you feel may be 'inconvenient' or which you perhaps do not wish to have or acknowledge. It is a gradual process that takes place at your pace. The emphasis isn't on 'problem solving' but on allowing you to 'take stock' of things. 

If life adjustments are necessary, it is for you to come to this in your own way, in your own time. The counsellor won't get tired of listening because clients sometimes have to back over things many times in order to 'straighten things out' in their heads. Sometimes, nothing can be done about what has happened, or will happen, yet talking about things allows you to move towards acceptance, or to gently adjust your perspectives or expectations and therefore to live more comfortably with your situation. 

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