Maybe you’re off on a silent retreat, perhaps it’s the family holiday of a lifetime, or you’re simply house-sitting upstate for a couple of days. You need the time off to recharge – but it’s harder than it should be to switch into a relaxed state… and your travelling companions are noticing.
How can you stop vibrating quite so fast? Quintessentially spoke to some of our favourite thought-leaders in the rest ’n’ relaxation trade and discovered their own decompression rituals.
1. Take an extra day off before you go
“This gives you time to do any last-minute holiday prep, which can be anything from dashing ‘round the chemists looking for sun cream to booking a pampering session,” says Olivia Soleto-Teasdale, co-founder of Circle Haus, an organisation offering luxury retreats focusing on thought-leadership, wellness and world-class cuisine.
If you’re off on a family holiday, this ‘buffer day’ may present a rare opportunity to have some time to yourself before embarking, even if it boils down to packing without the obligatory panic. If you’re especially keen to embrace the holiday spirit, White Calm Retreats offers one-day retreats in the UK featuring yoga, meditation, sound baths, walking, de-stress workshops and more.
2. … and plan a ‘bedding-in day’ for when you return
“Use this to catch-up on emails, write to-do lists and a plan of action to get you back into the working mode,” continues Olivia from Circle Haus, “preferably away from the office to avoid distractions.”
Some ‘personal admin’ might well have stacked up too, and this is a great opportunity to simultaneously sort through. And while you’re away, you can kick back safe in the knowledge you won’t be flying straight back into the otherwise-obligatory storm. Expert tip: don’t tell the office that you’ll back at home on the bedding-in day, no matter how much it might seem like a good idea. Or a top brag.
3. Practice ‘doing nothing’
The quote marks are there because, by recharging, you’re making yourself more effective. So, it’s hardly ‘doing nothing’ but instead a very valuable process of restoration.
“If you spend most of the year being highly productive, then relaxing and experiencing ‘stillness’ may feel like wasted time,” says Dr Jason Culp, a naturopathic doctor at the multiple award-winning
in Hua Hin, Thailand.“However,” he continues, “it is within these moments that we become fully aware of the present, letting go of what we have done – the past – and what we should do, the future.” So either take the opportunity to finally download a popular meditation app such as Headspace, or make sure you stick to the practice your minutes in if you already use one – a flight is a fantastic opportunity to begin learning.
“Practicing present-moment awareness is one of the easiest ways to drop into holiday mode,” explains Dr Culp, “this shift can be accomplished through various techniques, including practicing yoga and meditation or just simple breathing exercises: a slow, even rhythm of five seconds inhaling, five seconds exhaling is usually sufficient to induce relaxation.”
Breathing exercises are becoming very popular with senior executives struggling to find time for meditation or yoga. Check out Vinyasa yoga expert
‘Breathe to Heal’ for an introduction.
4. Don’t give yourself a hard time about ‘relaxing’
“People who are really busy and work themselves into the ground tend to take fewer holidays, maybe only one proper break a year. As a result, there's a lot of expectation riding on the holiday to be relaxingly perfect just because they’ve got sun, sand and sea,” says Harley Street
“Whenever we create expectation, we immediately create pressure, and we go into what's known as ‘resistance’,” she continues, “That means when things aren't how we imagined they would be, there can be anger, irritation and frustration; none of which makes for the most relaxing holiday.”Try not to put too much pressure on yourself to ‘be relaxed’. Despite their special nature, vacations are not, unfortunately a magic spell.
“For people who find themselves crawling toward the sun, sea and sand feeling broken and spent, my advice is to not over-think your holiday,” says Zoe, “It’s important to be gentle with yourself and your experience. Realise you may well need time to really wind down, otherwise it’s a bit like arguing with the weather. Deliberately take a moment or two every day to be present to your surroundings and emotions, allowing your experience to be whatever it is.
The less you go into resistance and ramp up pressure with ‘shoulds’ – for example, ‘I should be having a good time’, or ‘I should be relaxed’ – the better time you’ll have and more relaxed you'll actually be.”
5. Step away from your phone
Freelancers see point seven, below – the rest of us have less of an excuse to be tapping away at our ‘personal devices’. “We all suffer from being ‘on’ all the time,” says Rebecca Tucker managing director of
, the UK one-day retreat specialists, “From the minute we wake up we are on our phones to the minute we go to bed. Working almost 24/7 is the norm and expected. Digital detox is one way of not slipping back. I for one have two phones: one for work, and one I take on holiday to message the children if my husband and I are away. The trouble with having one phone with all your work emails and all your personal messages on is it’s all too tempting to pick up work while you’re dealing with text messages from the children. What I also recommend isn’t locking your phone in the safe on holiday, then agreeing that you will only use it once a day at a certain time and that’s all!”
In a cruel twist, some of us feel anxious if we are not getting enough email traffic from the office. Being ‘in demand’ has become intrinsic to our identity and sense of self-worth. “If you really believe you are not getting emails because you are not worth anything this will be a more deep-rooted problem,” says Rebecca, “CBT, ’cognitive behavioural therapy’, is a great way to deal with self-worth and self-esteem. This is an issue with how you view yourself and must be addressed by a professional.”
6. Try hard exercise
For some of us, lounging by a pool desperately trying to relax simply doesn’t work. Office workers in the West often become ‘tired’ due to the side effects of the primary stress hormone cortisol, rather than exertion itself. This is how we can feel exhausted and yet still be restless.
The cathartic effect accompanying physical exercise, produced by hormones the body creates to reward itself, is often a shortcut to relaxation. Rather than book another massage try a cliff top walk, kayaking, sea swimming or cycling – any form of exercise to get your blood pumping and out in the fresh air. The treadmill in the hotel gym does not count. Especially savvy travellers can book a holiday providing relaxation options for your companion, and the opportunity for you to work out – a diving holiday at Jade Mountain resort overlooking St Lucia’s marine park in the Caribbean, for example.
Joe Minihane, writer of Floating: A Life Regained
(Duckworth Overlook) tells Quintessentially, “Going for a wild swim is a surefire way to decompress. The fact you can’t take your phone in the water with you means the only things you need to focus on are kicking your legs, moving your arms and slowing your breathing down. Research has shown just three minutes spent in cold water has an anti–inflammatory effect, helping to reduce stress. Throw in a quick hit of dopamine and a post–exercise endorphin rush and you can swim back to the beach or lake shore certain of the fact you’ll have washed away the worries of work. Swim regularly during your vacation and you should feel calmer, and more centred, too.”
7. Freelancers: limit your laptop time
More and more of us work as our ‘own boss’ and this can entail daily housekeeping: whether it’s checking emails for new work leads, maintaining your social media presence, or dealing with supposed emergencies on behalf of your smartphone-addicted clients.
“You still need to switch off,” says Oliva from Circle Haus. “My advice: plan to have an hour a day free to catch up with emails and to let potential clients know you’re available only when you’re back. When I’m away, I go for a morning run or take a coffee, then come back my room to catch up with work for an hour. Then it’s time for the pool or stroll in the sun – after all, I am on holiday!”
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