By Alexander Caillet, Jeremy Hirshberg & Stefano Petti
Have you ever been on vacation and been unable to relax? The whole point of taking time off is to achieve the calm, happy, and energized (CHE) states of mind that make us most productive and effective both while we’re away and when we’re back in the office. So how can you make sure that happens?
Stage 1: Prepare
Prepping for a vacation — figuring out whether and how to complete, delegate, delay, or drop work – can be stressful, generating anxiety, frustration, and even anger. But if you succumb to these unproductive states of mind, you exacerbate the problem: you’ll be less likely to get everything done and leave yourself more to worry about while on holiday. Even during this period of scrambling, you must work toward CHE by focusing on only the most critical activities, ignoring distractions, and taking regular breaks that allow you to breathe, stretch your body, clear your mind, reflect and socialize – all proven techniques for inspiring higher states of mind.
Stage 2: Transition
As you start your vacation, you’ll want to relax as quickly as possible. But a more effective approach is to transition slowly, allowing your mind and body to get used to the change, particularly if your prep time was very stressful. Research shows that stress can dampen our immune system. It’s true that stress hormones like cortisol prop us up for a time. But if we relax too quickly, letting go of that support before our immune system can recuperate, we can expose ourselves to illness. So maintain a similar level of mental and physical activity for the first few days of your holiday then ease into full relaxation.
Stage 3: Vacation
Once you’re immersed in your holiday, make sure to operate in ways that will lead you to CHE:
- Disconnect: Stop checking emails, calls, and texts, allowing only emergency information to come through. Let go of anything over which you have no control.
- Be present: Truly appreciate each moment. Center yourself with pauses similar to the ones you should take at work but make them longer. Breathe in and out for a total of 10 seconds, check your body and ease any discomfort with stretching or movement, clear your mind, then activate a positive feeling of appreciation and gratitude for where you are at the moment.
- Focus on health: Eat nutritious food, drink lots of water, exercise, and sleep. Take care of yourself.
- Really have fun: Ensure that laughter and smiles are part of your daily routine. Ask yourself: What will make this a special vacation? What really matters right now? What can I do to feel joyful, fulfilled, and rejuvenated?
Your state of mind before and during vacation determines the quality of and benefits derived from your time off. Make sure to stay calm, happy, and energized through your prep, your transition and, finally, your well-deserved holiday. With restorative time off, you’re more likely to feel refreshed and ready to be productive when you return to work.