Is Your Holiday Stressing You Out?

Is Your Holiday Stressing You Out?


Once upon a time you went on holiday. You had been looking forward to it for months. You had planned everything down to the last detail. This was going to be the break you needed, the boost to your tired batteries. You were looking forward to returning refreshed and ready to face the urban jungle once again.

So how come you were bored by day two, had more arguments than fun with your family and returned to work feeling exhausted and demoralised?

Adjust your expectations

Firstly, it may be because your expectations were just too high. Miracles do happen – politicians do occasionally tell the truth – but far too often the fairy tale-like rejuvenating qualities we bestow upon a holiday are just unrealistic.

If you have been doing battle in the urban arena for several months, overworking, under-sleeping, eating poorly etc., a few days on a beach or in the mountains are unlikely to provide the kind of recharge you need.

Find the right ‘break’

Secondly, and probably more likely, you may simply be going on the wrong type of holiday. Just as we don’t all respond the same way to stressors (think of one of your colleagues who loves standing up and giving presentations and another who goes all sweaty and panicky at the mere thought) there is no universal de-stressing holiday.

We are products of our upbringing, our cultural and religious beliefs, our education, our state of health, our skills, experience, views, assumptions and many other elements. We also have base personality types that correspond with broad preferences and behaviours.

I am what’s known as a Type-A personality – a perfectionist, time-urgent control freak who loves to get involved in far too many projects and finish people’s sentences for them.  I can think of no greater purgatory than to be put on a beach in the middle of the Indian Ocean with nothing but the tides to contemplate for a week or two; I’ll become hypo-stressed. I’m not saying I need my laptop/tablet/smartphone as a constant companion, but I do need a variety of stimuli to nourish me. I want to go sightseeing; I want to sample the local culture, food and music; I want to do something I wouldn’t usually do at home – snorkel, rent a scooter, zip-line through the forest.

Finding the balance

Of course nothing is ever as simple as the broad generalisation I have described here, however, if your last holiday left you feeling like last week’s porridge, consider the following:

1. Do you get bored easily? Do you like the thought of doing nothing rather than the actual experience? If so, you are probably a lot like me:

  • Take shorter breaks more frequently – a shorter time spent doing something you like versus spending loads of time doing something you don’t will be far more beneficial;
  • Choose destinations that have a variety of activities that interest you (and your partner);
  • Make time for your partner to indulge their particular holiday-interests so you can indulge yours guilt-free.
  • Make sure there are plenty of activities for your children – one thing I have learned the hard way is if your children are not enjoying themselves, neither will you.

2. Get out into nature – research shows that even looking at pictures of nature boosts oxytocin production (sometimes referred to as the ‘love hormone’) and lowers raised blood pressure;

3. Schedule ‘off weekends’ where you stay at home and have nothing scheduled. Lower the budget; lower your expectations and you may be pleasantly surprised.

4. Lastly, be spontaneous – children’s author Derek Landy sums this up: “Plans are invitation to disappointment” and Germaine Greer, controversial author, academic and campaigner for women’s liberation says, “the essence of pleasure is spontaneity.” Ditch the lists, pick up a last-minute deal and abandon yourself to the excitement.

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Richard Hawkey
Richard Hawkey is an anti-stress evangelist, author, speaker and productivity consultant. Having suffered from a stress-related breakdown himself, he has since combined this general management and leadership experience with the profound lessons he learnt from mismanaging stress and subsequently burning out. He is the author of Life Less Lived and the founder of equilibriumsolutions – which has developed the first online stress management tool aimed at both employees an employers. Richard can be contacted at