Did nothing on your holidays? Think again.

Ever had this conversation?

Co-worker: “How was your holiday?”

You: “Great”

Co-worker: “What did you do?”

You: “Absolutely nothing, it was bliss”

However you didn’t spend your ten days of annual leave doing absolutely nothing did you? What you didn’t do was work. What you did do was all the small things that make you happy. You took long walks on the beach, you spent all day snuggled up reading a book, you hand-wrote a letter or postcard to a friend, you saw parks and gardens and visited wildlife sanctuaries. You skied, surfed, kits-sailed, rode a bike, learned how and how not to paddle a canoe and took a yoga class. These are all things you did. Things that felt good. So why do you only do them when you’re on holidays? And why do we class them as nothing?

We collectively tend to have the mindset that doing these enjoyable non-work related things is timewasting. It’s lazy to spend a whole day curled up with a good book. Leaving work at 5.45 every once and a while to make it to that 6.15 yoga class you’re dream of is will get you raised eyebrows from your co-workers. Why is this? Why is self-care and doing the things you enjoy deemed as time that could have been better spent? Why do we not invest in stand-up paddle board lessons on a the weekend but will happily do so on holidays? We blame it on being time-poor. There are simply more important things that need to be done.

I was extremely guilty of this. I live in one of the most exciting, robust and action-packed cities in the world, and I was constantly bored. As a group, 9-5 Monday to Friday workers tend to stick to our schedules on the weekend. Saturday: brunch then home to do the washing and cleaning, head out for dinner/drinks. Sunday: sleep in, run the park to burn off last night’s dinner/drinks, social coffee, check emails and start to prepare for the week ahead. Nowhere in that space did you mentally give yourself a break. You did not reward yourself for the hard week you just had. Why not break the cycle? What would you do if you were on holidays? Try this. Saturday: up early to wander the markets and eat street food for breakfast, head over to the artist space that has an open day/ local cultural festival for an hour or so, home to do the washing and while it’s on create a picnic dinner for you and your loved ones. Eat dinner as the sun sets and laugh the night away. Make one Sunday a month ‘try something new’ day. Take those stand-up paddle board lessons; always wanted to know what barre is, book a class. Following grab your book/dog/child and head to the park/beach and enjoy the afternoon. If it’s raining, head to a free gallery or museum. Whatever it is that you enjoy doing on holidays, make an effort to weave it into your everyday life. Didn’t get to the cleaning or washing because you were having too much fun? Read on.

Another mystery to me was how to teach myself to stop checking my work emails on the weekend and after hours. I worked a job where I was on the road a lot and often working away from the office, so it was necessary that I had access to my emails on the mobile/tablet. This however often led to a complete lack of separation between my personal time and my work time. I was constantly checking my emails, telling myself that I it was okay. I wasn’t replying, I was just checking what to expect for the next day. If you can break this awful habit when you’re on holidays, then you can break it after hours. If you cannot break it on holidays, then you need more help than I can provide. Sorry. There are no magical devices or coded locks that I’m going to recommend you rush out and buy. This takes good old fashioned self-control, however these things can assist. Busy yourself with things that are more important to you than work.

  1. Try to not allow yourself to be bored after hours and you’ll find you check your emails less. Take that yoga class at 6.15. Remember that you stopped getting paid at 5pm, the boss has gone home so don’t feel guilty for walking out of the office at 5.45. Use that holiday mindset to switch off from work, and dial into yourself for a few hours of bliss and tranquility a few times a week.
  2. Instead of wasting the daylight hours you have away for work with washing and cleaning, do it on a set night after work. Monday is cleaning. Tuesday and Thursdays are laundry.
  3. Volunteer your time, or take a class to learn something new. Mental stimulation will help you see that the client can wait until 9am for a reply to their email. You’re on your post-5pm holiday!

I have lived all these tips. They are not unfounded. I was a self-confessed workaholic, unable to relax and wound so tightly that I snapped at my partner that she simply didn’t understand the pressure I was under, that I had to work late, that I had to check my emails before I go to sleep. The only time I was happy or allowed myself unwind was when we were on holiday. I spent a small fortune on weekend getaways just to allow myself to relax. I am now learning to do that everyday, in my own city and in my own home. I am bringing a holiday mindset to my everyday, and life could not be better.

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