Remember that great line from Withnail and I, when Withnail suddenly has a panicked realisation that he is on holiday, in a farmhouse in the middle of nowhere, and then asks the farmer:
I love that line. It’s funny, but probably true for many.
Holiday stress is a thing. It’s real. Although of course, it’s all in your head. The very thing that holidays are designed to do, relieve stress, is in fact the catalyst of even more stress.
How often has the expectation of going on holiday been the most enjoyable bit? And you come to a horrible realisation that the holiday you thought you were going to have hasn’t transpired. And then like Withnail, it feels like it’s been some terrible mistake.
Think of all the things you’re expected to do on holiday.
Besides all the planning, travelling and being in a new place. You are told you’ve got to stop and relax. It’s expected. And that’s when the stress starts. Then your daily routine has been interrupted; there’s suddenly a gap in your timetable in which you have to do something else. That’s hard too. Things have changed and you’re expected to change with them, quickly.
Add to this, you’re probably with family and/or friends. You love them but you’re probably realising you don’t like them as much as you thought you did… at least for a whole two weeks or so!
As we have said before in our blog posts, the cause of stress, anxiety, anger and disappointment is the ‘e’ word; expectation. And it’s no different for going on holiday. We could even adapt our own make happy work algorithm just for holidays. It might go something like this:
A good holiday = you + place + moment – expectation
This really can work, as long as you participate productively, creatively and mindfully.
How to build a healthy holiday routine
- Don’t expect too much to happen (this is very important).
- Make a loose plan outlining what you’re going to do on which day – you don’t need to stick to it but try to create some structure. Build in days where you do absolutely nothing.
- Pace yourself. Don’t feel that you need to do everything at once.
- Rest. That’s the whole point of taking a holiday, so don’t feel guilty that you are letting go and dialling down a little.
- Cultivate spontaneity and try to go with the flow, particularly if you’re on holiday with lots of other people.
- Be open to the change of perspective and environment a holiday provides you. It’s important to get out of your daily spaces and into something different, whether it’s mediaeval towns, ancient forests, glorious beaches or the fish market in the town square, they are all the moments that open you up and liberate you.
- Give yourself time to practice being present. You’re on holiday, after all!
Take that project you’ve always been meaning to do; the sketchbook that you bought two years ago but never opened. It might stay closed but that’s okay too. The great Finnish architect Alvar Aalto would always carefully pack sketchbooks, pens and colouring pencils for his holidays. Sometimes, they remained in the travel case and were never used. It didn’t matter.
So don’t despair. Holidays are good and they serve a real purpose. If you allow yourself to accept rather than expect, you might even enjoy it…