October/November 2019

Why don’t you take your holidays?

I’m sure many of us will remember the culture of working long hours, always keen to be recognised as the first to arrive and the last one to leave each day. It didn’t matter if the hours in-between were spent roaming offices clutching a file under one arm, looking busy. We were there! These days, with so many of us hot-desking, working from home or on the road travelling from meeting to meeting there’s no time to ‘look busy’ as we’ve often very little time to waste. In fact, a recent TUC survey (2019) revealed that £32 billion of unpaid overtime was worked last year. No wonder stress is such a ‘biggie’, costing UK businesses £40 billion in lost productivity, due to absenteeism, accidents and poor performance. Taking breaks and holidays is important in managing stress, self-care and wellbeing. Why is it then that 2 million workers, or one in fourteen, fail to use their full holiday entitlement?

Is there more pressure around?
We all want to do a good job, protect our employment and see the business do well. With appraisals and performance reviews likely to affect our salaries and progression there can be additional concern to always be available and not open the door for someone else to cover our role, do a better job or maybe discover mistakes or inefficiencies.

When time away from work is so important – why don’t you take your holidays?
Fear of missing out and perfectionism can mean that we feel stressed or apprehensive and uncomfortable at the mere thought of taking a break or holiday. We may really need time off but feel conflicted at the prospect of being unavailable for the duration. It’s often the case that when we’re constantly busy we focus our attention on dealing with the most pressing matters first. Why wouldn’t we? But gradually the less demanding areas of our lives can fade into the background, with us trusting family and friends to take care of themselves.

However, if we’re frequently unavailable they can start to feel unimportant and learn to get along quite nicely without us. It’s interesting that post-holiday is the second busiest time for divorce lawyers, with post-Christmas being the most busy. When we lose touch with our relationships we can find that spending a couple of weeks together highlights how estranged we’ve become. Taking regular breaks and holidays provides an opportunity to keep communications alive and improve those relationships, so avoiding becoming too distant. Be aware that stress manifests itself in different ways. There are a documented 360 physical symptoms of stress, potentially a new one for each day of the year! Learning to recognise your own warning signs gives you advance notice that it’s time to intervene and take a holiday before things escalate and affect your health and wellbeing.

One sign that you’d benefit from a holiday is when your creative thinking becomes less effective.
You may find yourself going through the motions, working hard but not caring as much or concentrating as well, so losing the joy in what you’re doing. So, change your perspective on holidays. Decide how you’d like to spend a week or two, what you’d like to do whilst away. Whether single or partnered, with or without children it’s important to include your wishes. Consider your needs as well as other peoples in any decision-making and stop being so preoccupied with what you’d be missing at work.

Avoid using your holidays to catch up on chores.
If you’re not going away it can be tempting to decorate the house or sort out the garden. There may be some merit in allocating time for those things but equally find a location, hobby or interest that appeals; maybe a group holiday, one for special interests like walking, or even a retreat.

Investigate what excites or inspires you.
Use your holiday as time to really focus on yourself and/or family. Do things together that you enjoy and recommit to your relationships. Remind yourself that they’re often the reason why you work so hard. Your intention was to make a good life and provide for them. Discuss ways to maintain fun and closeness post-holiday. Maybe sharing regular family meals, hobbies and interests could sustain ‘us’ time once the holiday is over. Appreciate that breaks and holidays should give space to switch off and distance ourselves from routine cares and stress.

Often a break provides time to be quieter, distracted by other things, afterwards returning refreshed, with new insights and ways of doing things, perhaps even with a new perspective on a problem. Learn to switch off the adrenalin. We can become habituated to living permanently on red-alert, hyper-vigilant and programmed to constantly react and jump to attention at whatever is happening. Adopting a calmer, more relaxed approach helps you assess and choose to respond in a more pragmatic, effective way. Switching off with breaks and holidays is an important way to invest in your ability to live life well.

So make sure you take your holidays…

Susan Leigh

Susan Leigh MNCH (ACC)
Altrincham, Cheshire and South Manchester counsellor, hypnotherapist, relationship counsellor, writer and media contributor offers help with relationship issues, stress management, assertiveness and confidence. She works with individual clients, couples and provides corporate workshops and support. She’s author of 3 books, all on Amazon and with easy to read sections, tips and ideas to help you feel more positive about your life. To order a copy or for more information, help and free articles visit www.lifestyletherapy.net

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