There’s nothing like a serene, rejuvenating vacation. In today’s hectic work world, vacations can provide harried employees with much-needed time to relax and recharge their proverbial batteries, ultimately reaping benefits for both the employees themselves and for their companies.
However, if your job involves significant responsibility, the idea of taking a vacation may prompt more stress than relief. If this sounds familiar to you, it may help to consider a few useful tips for reducing work-related vacation worries, therefore giving yourself freedom to truly enjoy your time off. Here’s a list of science-backed vacay de-stressors to get you started:
1. First and foremost: Use your vacation days!
This one seems SUPER obvious... but hear us out. Plenty of professionals choose to leave many of their company-provided vacation days unused, largely out of concern about falling behind on work tasks. In fact, Travel + Leisure reports that a full 52% of Americans leave unused vacation days on the table every year. However, if your own productivity is a genuine priority, taking advantage of vacation time will only help. President Daniel Kirsch, Ph.D of the American Institute of Stress agrees, telling T+L that “to charge the brain, you have to un-plug it. It’s like when you misplace your keys or phone and frantically look for them, it’s hard to remember where they are. But soon after you relax and let it go, it automatically bubbles up to your consciousness and you visualize where you left it.”
2. Turn on your out-of-office message a day before you depart.
Setting up an out-of-office message is an effective way to make coworkers and clients aware of your vacation plans and to establish expectations for response times. However, if you wait until your first day of vacation to put the message into use, you may find yourself overwhelmed by email requests received shortly beforehand. The Muse has a solution to this debacle: turn on your OOO message a day before you depart. “It’s so easy to do, and it means that anyone sending you emails during your last day at work will have the expectation that you might not get back to them until after your vacation, making them less likely to be frustrated by your lack of response. This then gives you the power to decide which of those people actually urgently need your attention before you head out, and which can wait until later,” The Muse explains.
3. Spend 15 minutes checking your work email the night before you return to the office.
Another tip from The Muse with scientific benefits? Taking some time the night before your return to work to quickly review your inbox and set a game plan for prioritizing during your first day back. “Yes, it stinks to get away and relish the time off only to return and feel your blissful state immediately melt away by going through your inbox. But because I like to not only enjoy time away from the office, particularly when it’s a bonafide vacation, but also maintain that keep feeling of being recharged and refreshed for at least a few days, I compromise with myself by doing this. Trust me, it works. The Monday after a trip no longer stresses me out,” The Muse columnist Stacey Lastoe insists.
4. Maintain an exercise regimen while on vacation.
Yes, vacation should definitely be a time to diverge from your normal routines and to soak up all the R&R possible. But studies show that regular physical fitness should remain part of your life even during “special” travel periods. So in between basking in the sun and enjoying poolside cocktails, take yourself for a long walk, drop in on a yoga class, or hop on a bike for sightseeing purposes. Your body will thank you.
5. Mentally reframe your travel-related happiness as a way to improve your work performance.
Dedicated employees frequently feel some measure of guilt about taking vacation time, and- as little as we like to admit that reality- we can understand the impulse. Therefore, it may prove helpful to reconsider the way you think about “time off”. After all, vacation provides you with an opportunity to boost your own energy levels, which can ultimately serve your company. A study from the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health indicated that a “long weekend” of four days gave employees stress-relieving and productivity-producing benefits lasting up to 45 days. Good employers consider vacation time a benefit for both sides, so allow yourself to let go of any residual guilt.
6. Keep the health benefits of vacations at the forefront of your mind.
Bottom line: vacations are healthy, and healthy employees are better employees. According to Inc., “a small study from the University of Vienna found that after taking time off from work, vacationers had fewer stress-related physical complaints such as headaches, backaches, and heart irregularities, and they still felt better five weeks later.” Your health is your most crucial asset, and the positive aspects of maintaining it will serve both your personal and professional lives.
7. Before leaving for vacation travel, do as many organizational tasks ahead of time as you can.
Especially if you’re traveling with a group (like your family or a crew of friends), planning for a vacation can require a major investment of time and energy. As stressful as this can become, it’s worthwhile to complete vacation-related tasks ahead of time, freeing you up to truly let loose and appreciate your unencumbered time off. Former clinical psychologist Alice Boyes offered the following advice to The Washington Post: “Visualize where you’re headed and think about what you can do in advance to cut down on things to do on the road. Boyes makes sure that she brings plenty of $1 bills, so she’s prepared to tip housekeeping staff and others without having to run off and get change. ‘I know it only takes five or 10 minutes, but it’s annoying to do when you’re on vacation,’ she says.”