How to Take a Holiday

Tips and strategies to really take a break this holiday season.

You may think that ‘How to take a holiday’ is a silly title for an article. Surely we all know how to do that right? Well, I am not so sure. Both my research and my personal experience tell me that in reality, many people find it really difficult to take real time off each year.

What’s just as bad, is that even when people do manage to get some time off work, many people spend most of the time wound up, thinking about work, or feeling guilty for not being in the office. Pretty crazy right? So with the holiday season looming (well, it’s actually here), it’s time to look at the why and how of taking a break.

Now before we get in to the advice dishing part of the article let me fess up. Until about five years ago, I never, ever, took more than a week’s break at any given time, and there were a few years there, where I didn’t take a break at all.

The times when I did take a rare week off, I always checked my emails while away, called the office to generally let everyone know that I wasn’t really on holidays (not really), and I was still completely contactable and could be on any necessary conference call that I needed to be, blah, blah, blah ad-nauseam-here. It’s exhausting, just writing that.

Shocker, right? Or does that sound familiar to you right now? It probably resonates, and unfortunately, you would be in good company.

We think that we are indispensible and that our workplace cannot do without us. Or we are worried for our jobs or our clients if we take too much time out. But the reality is that your talent and the value you add will be fresher and more innovative when you come back from a few weeks off, than if you stay slogging your guts out for six months straight, without so much as a long weekend to catch your breath.

It’s an amazing feeling, to be able to switch off from the routine of daily life. No meetings, no conference calls, hopefully little cooking or domestics, no school lunches, no homework, nothing of a regular nature to have to contend with. The body and the brain can just let go and relax. And the spirit gets that chance to recharge as well.

So how can you get from where you might be (working like a dog) to where you want to be (relaxing at the beach)? Here are some tips and thought starters to get you moving in the right direction.


Get real about your mindset

We all know those people at work who moan and grown that they haven’t taken a holiday in five years. Really? No-one likes a martyr, so don’t be one. Shifting your mindset is the first really important step and the mindset you need is one of permission. Permission you give to yourself, to just be, to switch off, relax, let go and take that break. The days of slogging your guts out for endless months without a break, hoping someone will notice, or having no boundaries with your clients, and killing yourself in the process, are over.


Stress less quicker

Research tells us that it takes most people around five days into their holidays before they really start to unwind and switch off. What a waste right? Make the decision these holidays to let it all go, fast. Be present and enjoy the limited time you have with family and friends to really relax. You will be back at work soon enough, don’t worry about that!

Before you head out, check these 

There are many important things to get done before you head out, but make sure these are at the top of your list – they are simple, effective and peace of mind generating:

– Close out any projects that you can before you leave, and handover any work that is left if you are taking a longer break.

– Make lists of anything that needs to be done when you get back so you aren’t thinking about it while you are away.

– Put your out of office on your email and voice mail so you have let people know when they expect to hear from you. Redirect people if need be to the back up contact while you are out.


Finally relaxing at the beach? Do’s and don’ts

Don’t check your email and voice mail religiously. You may be wired to this habit from a year of doing it (or a lifetime), so leave your phone in your hotel room or if you staying at home, stick it in a drawer somewhere so it’s not attached to your hand. You don’t need it. At least not every five minutes.


Do get off social media. I suggest a social media fast when you are on holidays. At a minimum, take the first day with no contact to break your addiction if you have one (yes, you know you who are) and then only post or check in once or twice a day after that if you absolutely must. I know it can be hard, but your brain needs a rest from being so wired, and social media is like sugar…..too much and we’re unhealthy.

Don’t start new projects or start re-working old ones. This can be tempting for sure. We finally have the headspace we have been craving all year, so why not just do a ‘little bit’. Right? Wrong. Once you get your head back into workspace you may struggle to get it out again. Give yourself at least a chunk of your vacation to really switch off. You will be so much better for it.


Do something new or get creative. I find with so many of my clients that lost creativity is a source of great frustration and sadness, even when they can’t quite name it. What can you do this holiday season to reignite some fun, playfulness and creative vibes? Paint, play the piano, do your vision boards, draw with the kids, do yoga, create an alter for meditation, go dancing, visit an art gallery. It doesn’t really matter what it is, choose something and revel in it.


And finally, do take time to restore yourself. I am sure, if you are anything like me or my clients, you have had a full on year. That is how we live now. Full on and flat out. Please make sure you do some lovely nurturing things for yourself that will help to restore and nourish your system – especially your nervous system. Go to the spa, get a massage, take some lovely long bubble baths, meditate, read, drink tea and savour the aroma, sit under a tree, lie under the stars, cuddle your kids (and your partner), spend time with friends having long and luxurious conversations. And most importantly, take some time to just be.


And remember, breaks are not a luxury – they are a necessity for you to reach your ultimate potential. And you know what they say – all work and no play makes Betty a very boring girl – and no-one wants to be boring! Now, are we going to Tahiti or the Bahamas?


Wishing you a most peaceful, joyous, relaxed and safe holiday period. May you be well, happy and loved.

Need something inspiring to read on this wonderful holiday of yours? Make sure you get your copy of my beautiful new ebook Rise and Shine: Creating the career and life you love. Gift it to a friend and you both get access to my special Ask Megan Anything Q&A call at the end of January. I hope you love it.

Originally published at Psychology Today 

More Stories
A Clinical Psychologist Explains Why Finding Happiness Can Be So Complicated