A growing body of research shows that taking a vacation is good for your mental health. In a study conducted in the U.S., participants who took vacations twice or more per year were less likely to suffer from tension and depression. Even expecting a holiday break has a positive impact on your general sense of well-being.
However, in a world where the default is to be always online, it has become harder than ever to disconnect. As a result, many people end up coming back to work not as refreshed as they expected to. Whether you can travel locally or will stay at home for your break, there are strategies you can apply to make your vacation (or staycation) as replenishing as possible.
Manage your work diet
Ideally, you would completely unplug by not checking your email or any work-related content during your break. If you can afford to be offline for the whole duration of your vacation, do yourself the favour. It will help you relax, be more present in the moment, and think about non-work related matters.
However, it is not necessarily practical for entrepreneurs or managers to completely disconnect from work. If that’s your care, you need to manage your work diet by setting up a strict schedule for yourself, your team, and your customers. For instance, you could decide to check your email and to reply to urgent queries for one hour every evening before dinner.
It’s important to communicate your schedule to all necessary stakeholders, so they know when to expect an answer, and can adjust accordingly. If you are worried about going over the time limit you have yourself, it is also helpful to schedule that work hour at a time where you know you will have some sort of hard stop—lunch, dinner, planned activities, holiday homework with the kids are all good options.
Spend time with your loved ones
Spending time with your loved ones is important all year round, but taking a break from work is an amazing opportunity to give them your full attention. Make sure to all eat (and maybe cook) together, have long conversations, and to spend less time on your phone so you are fully present for them.
You can also think of activities you typically do on your own—maybe running, painting, playing an instrument—and make use of the extra time during your break to practice these with a friend or family member.
Taking a break from work can be about spending time alone—and sometimes that is necessary—but research suggests that strong social bonds are crucial to long-term well-being.
Take care of your health
It’s easy to go all-in on the alcohol and heavy meals during a vacation. Or to stay up all night because we know we don’t have any work commitment in the morning. However, vacations can be fun without making digging too much into our health capital.
- Get enough sleep. Most people are sleep deprived, which comes at a huge cost to our mental and physical health. Avoid caffeine late in the day, make sure your environment is comfortable, and try to go to bed around the same time during your break. See more tips to sleep better.
- Eat nutritious food. A break from work means more time—which you could use to cook yourself delicious and nutritious food to fuel your body and your mind. Of course, it’s all about balance. If you have been craving chocolate cake or crispy fries, don’t stop yourself. Just keep an eye on what you eat so you don’t come back to work tired and overweight.
- Make time for self-reflection. Your health is not just your mental health. A vacation can be a good time to take up journaling, meditation, or to simply tune in and see how you are feeling.
There is no need to completely change your habits during a vacation. If you have been running twice a week, no need to up your game and run everyday. If you have been taking a couple of coding lessons every week, no need to spend three hours a day learning how to code during your break. Of course, you could do that as well if you feel it would make you enjoy the break even more, but don’t put pressure on yourself to catch up on everything you have been meaning to do.
Whether you spend a vacation at home or get to travel somewhere, taking a break from work is a great opportunity to refuel your batteries. Take care of your mental and physical health, and, most importantly… Enjoy yourself!