You’re in the week prior to your holiday and you’ve still got tons of work to get through. You even have to work well into the evening to be able to leave your work behind in an organized manner. Then you have to rush to get your suitcase packed and arrange everything, which get’s you into even more stress. While on your way to the airport, it seems like a good idea to pick a fight with your partner over a pair of socks you forgot (spoiler alert: not so smart, trust me 😉 ).
Recognize this? You’re not the only one running into these kind of issues. Here’s some more research on this topic and more importantly, some tips on how to organize your work to prevent holiday stress.
What do the surveys say about holiday stress?
Due to the amount of work we have we generally feel stressed to take a vacation and do not use at least some of our holidays. It’s also caused by the relation people in Western culture have with work. It’s “normal” to always be productive, always answer emails and constantly be available. Research found that half of the American workers does not use up all of their holidays. Also, a lot of people feel stressed about the amount of work that will be there upon return to the office.
Holidays (done properly) reduce the negative long terms effects of stress
It is vital to reduce the long term negative effects of stress. Remember: holidays are an important instrument to achieve this. Even if you are eager to always be productive. I myself have troubles letting go sometimes, but some downtime really helps you to get back and be more effective and productive once fully rested.
The long terms effects of cortisol and stress on your body are detrimental. Chronic stress may cause a whole list of diseases and stress related complaints, for example:
- Mental health problems, such as anxiety and depression
- Weight problems
- Gastrointestinal problems (such as an irritable colon)
- Cardiovascular diseases
- Skin and hair problems
Therefore, it is very important to have a holiday in the right way, so it relaxes you. There’s definitely a lot you can do to make this happen.
Tips to prevent holiday stress
So how can you prevent holiday stress? Fortunately, there is plenty you can do to prevent getting stressed. For some part this actions you can take, but for the other part it is also a change in attitude. If you want to prevent holiday stress, here’s what you can do:
- Delegate work to colleagues
- Clearly communicate and plan vacation
- Prioritize work
- Out-of-office replies
- Make sure to start packing early enough
- Start planning everything early enough (such as routes etc.)
- Go offline – communicate this clearly in out-of-office replies
- Don’t answer emails
- Go into nature
- Reassess priorities
- Don’t answer all emails, but meet with key stakeholders to assess priorities
Actions to take at work in the weeks before the holiday
Planning your holiday is best done several months in advance, so all your colleagues are aware that it is coming.
Before you go on holiday, it is important to clearly communicate with your colleagues, manager and other stakeholders what they can and can’t expect from you. Write down your tasks which have to be done while you’re gone and include the names of colleagues who are best suited to take over. If they don’t exactly know how to take over, write instructions and explain. Of course, it is important to return the favor when your colleagues ask for it.
In the week before your holiday, make sure to prioritize your work. What can also be done once you’re back and what is vitally important? Leave the first till the last moment. That way, if you start feeling tired you can just go home and start preparing your vacation!
Also, take some time to write your out-of-office reply and make sure to list all your colleagues and which task they will perform when you’re on holiday.
To prevent and reduce holiday stress you can also apply some breathing techniques and mindfulness. No worries, no need to do this at work. You can also do this when starting your workday. I already wrote some articles on a few exercises and on the benefits of mindfulness, so definitely check those out if you’re interested.
Start early with preparing your holiday itself to prevent stress
Make sure to start early with your holiday preparations. There are multiple benefits in doing this. For instance, at night your brain continues to process information. When you think about things you need on holiday a week upfront, there’s less chance that you forget something. Also, you still have time to do some grocery shopping when going over stuff you need on holiday. This can really prevent some of that last minute stress.
During the holiday
Once on holiday, try switching completely off. So no email at all. To completely let go of your work, it is important not to get interrupted by email once every hour. Otherwise, you could just as well gone to work instead of on holiday.
Also, take a walk into nature. This is a proven way to reduce stress levels and the additional exercise definitely won’t hurt either.
Going back to work after the holiday
When you’re back from holiday, it is important to re-assess your priorities, as these may have changed during the holiday. To do this, it is smart not to plan meetings the first hours you’re back. So pro-actively also block some time in your agenda for this. Also, go to your main stakeholders and ask them what is the most important thing they want to have resolved. That way, you don’t need to go through all of the emails that were sent during the holiday. Going over your all of the email when you’re back from holiday is very ineffective by the way, in my experience. Half of the emails (probably more) is already obsolete as somebody else already answered the question (not necessarily in the same mail string) or the answer is not needed anymore. So decide for yourself if it is a good idea to drag the emails you received to your holidays in a separate folder and to not go through all of them.
That’s it! I hope you can use my tips. Don’t forget to give a thumbs up for this article on social media and share with others who can also use these tips! And see you back here next week for another blog on personal effectiveness.