1 year, 10 months ago
Holidays are supposed to be relaxing. But between the stress of travel itself and the stress of knowing you’re supposed to be having a great time, you often need a holiday to get over the holiday. Don’t get caught out like that. Start relaxing now, have a few quick-fixes on standby and just go with it, when you can. The most unforgettable holidays are ones where you don’t plan everything and brilliant stuff just happens, because you let it.
1. Build in a long-haul buffer
Always try to have a day at either end of your break to adjust to a long-haul journey. Hitting the ground running after 24-hours’ travel is a stressful start to a holiday and hard to come back from. The same applies going straight to work in a different time-zone when you get home.
2. Avoid stress-triggers
Unless you’ve signed up for boot camp, a holiday isn’t an endurance test. Always fess up to fears, phobias and dislikes, there are usually very simple solutions. And whatever you do, don’t try to tough it out – revealing a horror of heights half-way up the Eiffel Tower isn’t one of those good holiday surprises.
3. Don’t over-plan and over-organise
Loose structure and a few activities organised in advance are great on holiday. Control freak insanity always ends in tears. Work with the mood, know when to give in and if everyone else wants a day on the beach and you want to visit the local cathedral, go do and enjoy the moment.
4. Have a good night’s sleep
Holidays are about the only time a good eight hours’ sleep is a real possibility, grab it with both hands and don’t let go. Make like a baby and have a nap during the day if you can (call it a siesta). And don’t sleep late in the morning: getting up early and doing stuff feels better than a long lie.
5. Watch what you drink
Wine with lunch, aperitifs, wine with dinner, a nightcap or two – nothing’s easier on holiday than overindulging in the world’s most popular depressant. If a drink is your way of unwinding, have a glass of water for every glass of wine, know your limit and remember hangovers feel even more miserable when it’s hot and sunny.
6. Learn to laugh stuff off
You will get lost, you will miss lunch, you will get tangled up in another language, you will order some madness off a strange menu. They’re the funny holiday stories, try to laugh about them at the time and your stress levels drop instantly.
7. Use the sun wisely
Baking on the beach until you look like beef jerky isn’t good. But nothing makes you feel more relaxed and happy than the sun, in small doses. Wear SPF even in shade, go for forest walks in the too-hot afternoon and don’t miss the at-one-with-the-world magic joy of sunrises and sunsets.
8. Discover pure citrus stress relief
Citrus fragrance boosts levels of the mood-balancing hormone, norepinephrine. Put a few drops of lemon or orange essential oil on a hanky and pop it in a plastic bag. When you’re feeling stressed or tired, take it out and breathe in the aroma. It works surprisingly well for most small stuff.
9. Consciously limit your phone-time
Switch phones off as much as you can, check emails once a day only (if you must), disable all non-essential apps and don’t answer any calls or messages from work – you’re on holiday, enough said.
10. Have a social media break
How many times have you looked at someone’s holiday posts and thought ‘if they’re selfy-ing like beasts in front of MOCA, where are the kids?’. Down in Little Havana, hanging-out with the locals as far away from their rabid self-documenting parents as possible, we hope. Social media becomes a stressful holiday tyrant if you let it. Limit uploads to once a day (after the fun’s over) or just wait till you get home and post a slide show.
11. Think front of mind
No holiday’s a complete cure-all for life’s cares. But get into the habit of thinking consciously about concerns once a day while you’re away, then actively file those worried thoughts and refuse to let them invade your sub-conscious. It takes a bit of practice, but it works wonders.
12. Make time for a massage or a spa day
A day (or even a couple of hours) at a spa revitalises like nothing else and local therapies or massages are always worth trying – they could change your entire holiday for the better.
13. Get into nature as much as you can
Make time to take in as much nature as possible on holiday. If you’re in a city, check out parks, gardens and forests for walking and cycling. Explore a beach instead of just lying on it. And remember to breathe deep, stop and stare or sit awhile – it’s the best stress-relief there is.
14. Put some exercise into every day
Follow your regular exercise routine on holiday: early morning runs on a new beach or boardwalk are amazing. Hire bikes and go for country or park cycles (avoid city traffic it’s stress-central). Download safe, easy walking routes to suit everyone and set some simple challenges.
15. Give kids a bit of a routine
Kids are not the free-spirits we fondly imagine. They’re happier with a bit of routine and you’ll be more relaxed if you try to stick with regular mealtimes or bed times on holiday. Older kids are more flexible, but under-fives and toddlers respond well to some familiar structure.
16. Have a holiday from your holiday now and then
Days doing nothing at all are essential for recharging and, you appreciate active days more, if you give yourself some quiet space in between to assimilate and unwind.
17. Eat outside together in the evening
Buying ingredients at a local market, cooking a meal together and eating outdoors on a warm, summer evening makes for relaxed family time and great holiday memories. It’s also good to give everyone a break from ‘behaving’ in restaurants now and then.
18. Manage expectations and don’t over-promise
Some holiday experiences are magical, some aren’t. It’s always smart to manage expectation and let the excitement build naturally. Don’t feel guilty if Disneyworld is less than enchanting or ‘Mike’s Wonderful World of Macaws’ is three mangy parrots and a juice stall. These things happen, move on and make sure everyone else does too – it’s amazing how long a three-year old can talk about Cinderella’s Castle being closed for repairs, if you let them.
19. Have some guilt-free time to yourself
It’s your holiday too, don’t forget to make some space for yourself, do things only you like to do. You’ll be happier and more relaxed the rest of the time as a pay-off.
20. Find your hoku and use it
There’s an acupressure point on the palm of your hand, right between your thumb and forefinger, it’s called the hoku. If you feel yourself getting wound up, press the hoku firmly for about half a minute – almost instant stress relief.
And every now and then, take a minute, breathe, relax, remember you’re on holiday and just enjoy the moment, like it was going to last forever.