Does the idea of taking time off cause you to stress at the thought of what might happen if you down tools and unplug? What if something goes pear-shaped, and you’re not there? What if you miss out on an incredible opportunity from a prospective client? What if your current clients replace you with someone who is available?
A 2018 survey by the American Psychological Association found that 21% of adults felt stressed during a vacation, and 28% worked more than they thought they’d have to.
Working while you’re supposed to be unwinding can negatively impact your relationships, take you away from the present moment and wreak havoc not only your body, but also your mental health.
In May 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that time away can be crucial in preventing burnout, which is now recognised in the International Classification of Diseases as an ‘occupational phenomenon’.
Burnout is a syndrome defined as ‘energy depletion, exhaustion and negativity’ resulting from chronic workplace stress. If you don’t find the time to address burnout, time will likely, in one way or another, find a way for it to deal with you. And taking time off, especially if you’re self-employed, can generally be a lot more challenging than for salaried employees.
CHANGE YOUR MINDSET ABOUT TAKING TIME OFF FROM WORK
Start by focussing on what you’re gaining by taking time off, rather than by what you’re losing. Accept that yes, you may return to a mountain of emails, but telling your clients and colleagues that you’re “oh so busy” is not a personality type.
Try changing your mindset to “I deserve this time off” and “I will be rejuvenated and in better form when I come back.”
It’s a simple but powerful shift in thinking and semantics. Embrace the thought of a vacation as a tool to take you momentarily away from the daily grind where you can reflect, review, and recharge. And then, when you come back, picture yourself hitting the ground running, with more energy and ultimately, the capacity to be more productive and thus better at your job.
TELL THE PEOPLE WHO NEED TO KNOW BEFORE YOU LEAVE
Don’t just suddenly disappear or be gone for an unknown period of time – show respect to your clients and co-workers and tell them you’re going to be away and give them enough time to make their own plans if that’s needed. The importance of providing reasonable notice to others can’t be underestimated.
Turn on your email ‘out of office’ and change your voice mail message, so people know if you’re unreachable and when you’ll be back. Everyone’s expectations can then be aligned and no one gets a nasty surprise.
DON’T BE OBSESSED WITH MINDLESS CHECKING OF YOUR DEVICES
Protecting your personal time is vital to de-stressing and enjoying your break. A 2016 study conducted by Dscout found the average person touches his or her smartphone over 2,500 times a day.
One of the most significant stressors that arises from being connected is the continuous attention-shifting which keeps you trapped in your work mindset and doesn’t allow you to disconnect and recharge.
If your clients and colleagues know you’re checking your devices, you’ll become the master of your own misfortune as you’ve invited them to invade your space. Stick to the boundaries you’ve set up; otherwise, you’re giving permission to others to assume you’re available and working.
If you’re self-employed, put in plans and practices such as taking care of business for an hour in the morning and then sticking to it. Another way to free yourself from the day-to-day grind is to hire a virtual office or freelance assistant to take care of basics like fielding calls from clients, yet still retain the personal touch.
If the sky is going to fall down, your virtual office or freelance assistant should have a way to reach you. Don’t put your emergency contact details on your ‘out of office’ – that’s just inviting intruders to come on your holiday with you.
KNOW WHAT RELAXES YOU
For some, relaxation may mean spending time outside, whereas others may enjoy intense physical exertion. For you, it may be curling up with a good book or wandering through an art gallery. Whatever it is that you enjoy in a non-work setting, go do it during this precious time!
Be warned though – jam packing your vacation with back to back activities may ultimately lead to exhaustion. Allow for an injection of spontaneity in your downtime and possibly open yourself up to opportunities that day to day life doesn’t offer. Having an open schedule provides for the possibility of new experiences.
PLAN YOUR RETURN
There may never be a ‘right time’ for a vacation — but just as equally, give some thought to how you will return and what buffers you may need. Returning to work and immediately feeling stressed can quickly wipe out the benefits of a holiday. Consider blocking out your diary for a day or two so that you can catch up and allow yourself a less severe re-entry.
At the end of the day no one’s epitaph will ever read, “s/he was awesome at replying to emails” so make your holiday count. And if you’re a boss or a client, consider giving your staff or contractors a break from you! It cuts both ways.
Stay connected with the author by following her blog at www.clairebibby.com.