By Nelson Vinod Moses
So you have been working really hard, your boss has been complimenting you on the progress you have been making, your colleagues have been envious with your productivity and creativity. Your partner is happy with your ascendancy, but also sad to not being able to spend time with you, and you are feeling the first dark clouds of burnout descending.
Voila! It is time for a vacation. Leave it all behind and find a place to pause, reflect, rejuvenate and come back refreshed. Sounds easy? Maybe not. In a lot of cases, thinking of taking a vacation maybe stressful, what with all the planning and booking of tickets, and getting fabulous deals. There’s also the tough task of disengaging from work and switching off. Not to mention, the tough coming back to reality: how often have you heard of somebody saying that they need a vacation from the vacation they just came back from.
The key to a great vacation is the ability to press pause and unplug from daily routines and stressors. That can be difficult for somebody, whose primary job is to stay sharp and never shut shop. We tell you how to unshackle your mind from work and enjoy the perfect vacation so that you can continue doing your best work when you get back. Whether you plan on going solo, with a partner, friends or family, we have your back.
1) Plan well ahead:
Plan, plan, and then, plan some more. Planning is the key to a great vacation. Travel means new places, new things, new people. And anything new comes with a certain anxiety (and excitement!). The best way to avoid this, and also other nasty surprises, is to plan a trip well in advance. Research suggests that when the vacation is poorly planned, and there is moderate to high travel-related stress, a vacation does not add to happiness. The only way to eliminate this stress is to plan the trip by doing plenty of preparation. And guess what, according to research, planning a vacation brings happiness. This means thinking through most things that need your attention. “Make sure all arrangements are in place for people who are dependent on you, like for example, aged parents, or dependent children if they are not accompanying you,” says Deepa Pai, Integrative Therapist, Seraniti.
2) Pick the right time:
A good vacation is all about timing. If you go at a time when it is a busy time back at the office and you risk losing out on important happenings. Take off at a time when your new boss joins, or your team has signed a contract with a new client, or you have a report to submit and you may end up thinking about work on your vacation. Go when there are extended weekends, long holidays like Christmas and New year or during the beginning of the financial year.
3) Choose the right place:
If you are looking to unwind, choose a place which is quiet, abundant with nature and doesn’t reek of the hurry-burry of a city. Think mountains, uncrowded beaches (more Vitamin D), hills, rivers, forest, and wildlife sanctuaries. Avoid busy cities, hectic shopping trips, casinos, overcrowded beaches, and polluted places. If you have to transit through a big city, use it to visit parks, binge on the local food, stay at an AirBnB to enjoy the hospitality of a local, and don’t stay for more than a day or two. Wherever you go, make sure it matches your personality and temperament, if you are a beach person, go to a beach, and preferably to a new beach that you haven’t gone to, so you can make new memories.
4) Go with the right person(s):
A vacation is made up of the people you spend it with. Whether you are going with friends, romantic partners, or family you might want to consider whether you have the ability to be at peace when they are around. If they are individuals who push your buttons, refrain from asking them, plan a solo trip instead or go on a group tour. Whom you go with, is as important as where you go, and what you do.
5) Wind-down to the vacation:
Hand in all the important work, write an out of office mail, assign a person who can be contacted in case of an emergency, and don’t work 12-14 hour days just before leaving. Start to taper off, slow down and prepare. There’s no need to work yourself to the bone till the last hour of taking your vacation. Get into vacation mode a day or two before you actually start it.
6) Think of the right things to do:
Get a massage. Sign in for a detox treatment plan. Sleep in. Visit the spa. Eat a plant, fruit, nut and lean protein based diet. Take a meditation class. Do yoga. Walk on the grass. Get intimate with your partner. Stroll on the beach. Do all things that nourish the mind, body and soul.
7) Don’t work:
Working, thinking about work, should be a strict no-no. “If it is work that’s forced on to one without wanting it, then assertiveness and communication might help. If the work-stress is self-induced then brain training and learning to ignore work pings until you get to work can be useful,” says Prachee Dhar, Integrative Therapist, Seraniti. After all the reason for going on vacation is not only to unwind but also to come back refreshed and be more productive. “Tell yourself that this is your time off and that this is going to help yourself unwind so that when you get back you can function at your optimal level again which may not be the case now because of burnout,” says, Deepa.
8) Expect the unexpected:
You can plan, research, prepare for everything, and be well organized. But things can not go according to plan. Be ready for that. You might have a fight with your travel partner. You might miss your flight. Have your luggage misplaced. Suffer an injury or fall ill. Take it in your stride and accept it. Remember that your entire focus should be on pausing, relaxing and tuning to the present.
9) Don’t overload your schedule: Don’t worry about FOMO (fear of missing out). Have a day when you do nothing. A vacation isn’t a time to check things off of a carefully planned schedule. Rather it is a time to not do the things that you usually do when you are working. Don’t feel guilty about not doing anything. In fact strive to achieve nothingness, which is akin to a feeling of Zen: now that’s hard to come by.
10) Find the power of now:
When we are working and caught up in the grind, we are mostly stressed and anxious, either worried about what went wrong, or thinking of things that might not go as planned. This brings about a deep sense of unsettledness. In focusing our attention to the moment, we are truly able to enjoy and savour the present, bringing about a sense of equanimity. “When you are truly living in the present it can help you leave behind the stress of work which is important for deep relaxation. This would help in feeling motivated to do more and do your best once you are back from vacation. It also gives you a sense of wanting to do too,” adds Deepa.
11) Do a digital detox:
While it is very tempting to document your awesome vacation on social media, or yield to the unrelenting addiction of following all the latest happenings on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Snapchat, it is best to refrain from social media usage. A digital detox will help you in many ways including better relationships, harmony with your environment and better sleep. “Because other people’s doctored photographs and filtered lives distracts us from the here and now. Vacation is about rest and rejuvenation and recharging the batteries,” says Prachee Dhar, Therapist, Seraniti.
Deepa makes an important point about social media. She thinks creating memories and experiences are important while on vacation and this is what we take back at the end of a vacation and helps us connect with others and strengthens the bond with loved ones.
About the author
Nelson Vinod Moses is a Bangalore-based, award-winning mental health journalist, and Founder of Suicide Prevention India Foundation. His writing has been featured in Fortune, Quartz, The Times of India, HuffingtonPost, and many other publications. He is on a quest to bring mental health conversations out in the open, improving mental health literacy, and talking about the importance of mental health self-care.