As the last week of school approaches for many families, there’s lots of excited playground chatter about what people will be up to over the summer holidays.
Which got me thinking about holidays and their effect on us. The benefits of relieving stress and boosting wellbeing are well known, but what else can we do to help us maximise the advantages of taking a vacation?
We’re one of those families that likes to plan our holidays, often booking our next one as we return from the previous. Not everyone’s favoured approach, but I was heartened to find research showing that the anticipationof a getaway can be more pleasurable than looking back retrospectively. The possibilities of the places we might visit, and the activities we might undertake 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 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!