You’ve been counting down the days until your summer vacation. Oh, the relaxing you will do! The books you will read! The sunbathing you will soak up! Finally, you’re packing, eager for the rejuvenation to begin, but when you arrive you find that your vacation is anything but. Stress levels are suddenly higher than when presenting at the last all-company meeting. Your email keeps dinging and you’re finding it impossible to not engage. How will the office run without you? Wait, if it’s running fine will you have a job when you come back?
If work stress makes it difficult for you to chill out on vacation, you’re not alone. The Wall Street Journal reports that about one-quarter of the population could be classified as workaholics, and about 3 percent of the population even gets sick when attempting to relax on vacation. Because stress has become a habit, unplugging isn’t always so easy (or restful) after all. If you can relate, here are some expert tips to help you truly unwind.
We know this one is easier said than done. Rather than making work a no-no on vacation, instead determine a work boundary that feels realistic and healthy. If you’re taking calls because you feel obligated, that’s a good way to ruin a vacation. If you work yourself and you know an hour in the morning will help you better enjoy the rest of the day, feel free to email away – but only for a pre-determined time. Suggests Fast Company: “Just get it done, and then stay out of your inbox again until the next morning.”
Choose the optimal duration
The research is in. The best length of time for your vacation is drumroll … 8 days. Fewer days doesn’t give you enough time to unwind, and more days does not result in more relaxation. Researchers from the University of Tampere in Finland followed 54 vacationers for an average of 23 days, questioning them on their happiness, tension and fatigue levels, among other measures, reports The Wall Street Journal. The researchers discovered that vacation-related joy peaked after eight days away. “It could be that eight days is the ideal to fully gain the benefits of a holiday,” Jessica de Bloom, a member of the research team, told The Wall Street Journal.
Pick the right time
Heading out of town when everyone else is doing the same may not be the advice you read from travel blogs, but if work-related stress impedes your ability to relax, it may make good sense. During major holidays like the 4th of July and (pretty much) the entire month of August many folks step away from their 9-to-5 for a little R&R. Do the same and you’re less likely to stress about missed meetings and be distracted by the incessant ding of your inbox.
Get lost in an activity
Doing activities where we’re completely absorbed is good for us. According to research conducted by Christopher Hsee, a professor at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, productive people tend to be happier than those who are idle. Yes, even on vacation. Reports The New York Times: “That doesn’t mean you have to take an intensive yoga or rock-climbing course. Indeed, Professor Hsee points out that staying busy doesn’t have to be physical: simply exploring the local culture can be beneficial, he said. Consider taking a cooking class while in Italy instead of simply eating out, or sign up for an in-depth tour of an archaeological site while in Mexico instead of lying by the pool.”