Getting the most out of your holiday

This weekend I started packing for our holiday, which if I’m honest is not my favourite task. However, as I engaged the children in hunting out their toys to take (snorkles, boogy boards and pool inflatables in their case) we started to get excited as we discussed our impending adventures.  And not only that, brushing off the sand from last year’s holiday also got us reminiscing happily about last year’s trip.  So the slightly tedious packing task had actually helped us all feel more positive and excited.

Which got me thinking about holidays and their effect on us.  The benefits of relieving stress and boosting wellbeing are well known, but is there anything that we can do to help us maximise the well touted advantages of taking a vacation?

After our packing experience, it came as no surprise to learn that there is research showing that the anticipation of a getaway can be more pleasurable than looking back retrospectively.  The possibilities of the beaches we might visit, activities we might take part in is highly engaging.  Even the planning of a holiday in itself can lift your frame of mind (even if it subsequently doesn’t happen!).

During the holiday itself, ‘restoration’ or ‘recovery’ takes place, through engaging in self-chosen and enjoyable activities and the associated reduction in stress hormones. Proper nutrition, sleep and exercise will help us power back up mentally and physically – probably no surprise as they are all elements that help us deal with pressure when back in the workplace.  Holidays also give us the opportunity to strengthen relationships through increased time with family and the chance to make new friends.  Strong social support is a key component of resilience.

So how long do the benefits last? As you’d imagine, it depends on the individual.  It seems that the benefits of a decent vacation typically last 3-4 weeks.  A short 4-5-day holiday can be as beneficial as a longer one, which may be associated with being able to completely switch off from work whereas on a longer holiday people are more likely to check in.  Importantly, taking part in an appropriate form a physical activity can extend the lasting benefits of the holiday further.

So my resolutions as we head into our holiday? Probably nothing I couldn’t have guessed at, but ensuring during our break that we continue to exercise, focus on sleep and eat well is all going to help us maximise the benefits.  Plus making the most of the opportunities to create memories as a family and strengthen those ties between us.  And as I write this I’m fully aware of the rose-tinted glasses effect joy of anticipation…I may be feeling slightly less earth mother when we’re only an hour into our journey, the children are fighting in the back of the car and already asking “are we nearly there?”…!

Happy holidays everyone!


Sam Eddleston
Learning Curator and Team Coach


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