Physically on holiday, mentally at work

3-minute read 


If you only read one thing, make it this:
“We can’t perform at our best if we don’t take time, on occasions, to slow down.”


It’s so close you can almost taste it… the moment you log off your computer for the year, step foot into the sunshine and don’t think about work again until January. Great plan – but for some, it often doesn’t work out like that. Many of us end up checking work emails on holiday, taking calls from colleagues or doing work from home. Guilty!

And if you think that’s probably not good for your health and wellbeing (let alone your relationship if you’re in one), you’d be right.


The impact of always being ‘on’


Research shows that if you don’t fully switch off outside work hours, your levels of cortisol – the stress hormone – remain elevated, instead of decreasing throughout the day as they’re supposed to. The result is an adverse effect on your mood, energy levels and stress levels.

“Because most of us spend so much of our time switched on, trying to perform at our best and be maximally productive, we often find it difficult or that it takes some time to wind down,” says positive psychologist Dr Tim Sharp, aka Dr Happy. “Relaxation and timeout are just as important for our quality of life and should be valued as much as performing at a high level.

“In fact, over the long term, we can’t perform at our best if we don’t take time, on occasions, to slow down.”


How to switch off


Dr Sharp says it’s important to make switching off a priority instead of hoping it will happen naturally just because you’re not in the office.

Ideally, he says, we should be taking mini-breaks throughout the year rather than waiting until the end of the year to unwind, and even better – we should set aside short periods of time every day and week.

“Most of us don’t practice relaxing or switching off, but we should,” he says.

So whether it’s time to dust off your passport for that well-earned annual holiday, or you’re just taking a few days off for some time at home, try these tips to maximise your holiday enjoyment and leave your work stress off the itinerary:

  • Don’t have your phone with you constantly – it’s OK to ‘switch off’ for a while and get some separation from those incessant calls, texts and emails. Your health, sleep and relationships will thank you for it. And we promise – the world will still be there when you return.
  • Really focus on the people you’re with, and being fully present with them. It will help you communicate clearly, and show them you’re interested in what they have to say.
  • Don’t rush – give yourself plenty of time to unwind and enjoy your break. Soak up the slower pace and build good memories to draw on when you’re back at your desk.
  • Dr Sharp says to practice relaxation, mindfulness or meditation regularly. This doesn’t mean sitting in the lotus position for hours chanting ‘om’, but simply focusing on where you are and what you’re doing – whether it be sitting in a chair drinking a cup of tea, walking through the park or preparing a meal. Regularly practising this modern mindfulness can help with stress, memory and focus.
  • Sharp adds to challenge any unhelpful thoughts such as: ‘This is a waste of time’. Instead, focus on being present and truly enjoying your well-deserved time off.



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