When I worked full-time as a college administrator, I would typically take a two-week vacation during the summer months. I can vividly recall how it would take me about one week to calm down. Then, I would spend the next week getting anxious about returning to all the work I had missed while I was gone. You don't have to be a math whiz to determine that out of two weeks of vacation, I was lucky to get even a day or two of true relaxation.
Learning how to take and enjoy a vacation is important for everyone, but it's especially critical for those of us who might identify as Type A people, individuals who are sometimes called overachievers, who are prone to stress, and who are intensely committed to their work. Paradoxically, those of us who struggle to relax are the ones who need it the most. If you're like me, not taking time to recharge and restore could have you on the path to burnout, a state that can quickly lead to health concernslike insomnia or illness. Read on for some tips to help you make your next vacation your best, allowing you to return to work in a calm, centered and productive state of mind.
Create Buffer Zones
How I wish I'd learned about buffer zones 10 years ago! Many of us try to maximize our vacation time, so we'll leave the office at 5:00 p.m. on a Friday and drive, fly or ride directly to our destination, not leaving ourselves any time to transition into our vacation. We might also return home from vacation late at night, planning to return to work early the next morning.
Consider creating a buffer zone for your vacations. Plan on one day at the start and end of your vacation to allow yourself to wind down, pack and get yourself into the vacation mindset. Be intentional about this: take a moment to scan your brain for any issues that might trouble you during your vacation. Use your buffer days to wrap up any loose ends so that you can begin your vacation with a clear head.
Some of my former colleagues used to tell stories about a time when no one used computers and everyone communicated with memos. In those days, disconnecting from the office during a vacation would've been easy. Today, it takes a lot of work to unplug.
Schedule an hour on your last day in the office to manage your technology. Set your out-of-office reply on your email and move your email icon to the end of your page of apps on your phone so that you won't see it. Turn off your email notifications as well. Talk to your supervisor, colleagues and employees. Let them know how important it is for you to have some downtime and ask that they only contact you in a true emergency. Explain that you'll be taking a break from email and ask that they contact you by phone if they need to speak with you.
You might also want to limit your social media use during vacation times. I've found that posting something on my pages helps to hold me accountable to myself. Post something like “Heading on vacation and taking a break from technology. See you in a week.” By publicly stating your intentions, you'll be more likely to adhere to them.
Plan Your Ideal Vacation
It's very easy to get pulled into the mentality of “keeping up with the Joneses” when it comes to our vacations. Perhaps your neighbor just went on a great cruise and your best friend is heading to Europe. Great for them, but maybe not for you. Your ideal vacation depends on your personality, interests and budget. I know a lot of people who enjoy staycations, choosing to spend time at home, perhaps tending to their garden, reading or taking midday walks. Others might prefer a more active vacation that involves white-water rafting or some other adventures. When it comes time to plan your next vacation, reflect about what you (and your family) will find most relaxing, knowing that this might be different from what others choose for their vacations.
A Special Note to Parents
As parents, we want to make our kids' vacations special. Remember that it's your vacation too. One of the best pieces of advice I've ever heard about parenting is to put your oxygen mask on first. Just as you're instructed to do in the event of an airplane emergency, taking care of yourself is not only good for you, it's good for your kids too. It will help you to be more patient and present with your kids. Most important, it will teach your kids how to take care of themselves too. If you're leaving on a family vacation, remember to plan time for yourself, perhaps by sneaking out to a yoga class or heading to the beach solo one morning with a great book.
For some people, taking a relaxing vacation is a no-brainer. Others of us have to, ironically, work a bit for our vacations. By bringing some intention and planning to your next vacation, you'll be better able to relax, restore and renew yourself. From all of us at WIHE, we wish you a happy, safe and relaxing summer vacation.