Many of us find it difficult to escape from work, family or money stress, even on a beach. Lauren Taylor asks the experts for advice.
You know the drill – you’re on your annual leave, in an exciting new destination with your loved ones, but that work email you never replied to, or that bill you haven’t paid yet, is niggling somewhere in the back of your mind.
Those holiday-wrecking worries are not just limited to what’s going on back at home. Many people find themselves stressed out about travelling too.
Research from Booking.com shows that nearly a third of holidaymakers admit they worry about things going wrong in the first day of a break, and 39% think the first 24 hours pass them by in a blur.
This is clearly no good – especially in April, which is Stress Awareness Month. So we’ve spoken to some experts about how to relax from the moment you land.
1. Try new things you wouldn’t do at home
“So often we spend our time pleasing others, be it our boss, friends or family. A holiday is where we get to do what we want in our time frame,” says life coach Sloan Sheridan-Williams. “To ensure a quick transition to relaxing holiday mode, do something you wouldn’t normally do at home.
“This is the time to let your hair down and do something new to switch your psychology into the mode of exploring the limits of your inner child. Play a random song and dance like no one’s watching, drop in on a local karaoke bar and sing without holding back or go to the hotel bar and order a drink you’ve never tried before. The idea is to leave your ego back home and live your life in the moment, instead of worrying about how others might perceive you.”
2. Write a ‘to feel’ list
Lorna Cordwell, therapist and Head of Counselling at Chrysalis Courses UK, suggests: “Write yourself a short list of how you would like to feel on holiday, rather than what you would like to do. Feelings might include relaxed, content, happy, being good company, being adventurous. Or write yourself a few positive affirmations and keep them in a place where you’ll come across them often – ‘Today I will just have fun’ or ‘Today I will not answer the phone if it’s work’. It keeps you focused on exactly that.”
3. Be mindful
Sheridan-Williams says: “A quick trick to promote calm is to find something blue in your surroundings, whether it be the pool, a calm sky view or ocean waves outside your window. Stare at it for 60 seconds taking in three deep breaths and getting lost in the moment. The blue will promote calm while the deep breathing will help you transition to be in a new place and help you focus on the now.”
Cordwell agrees: “Short mindfulness meditation or self-hypnosis recordings can do wonders to promote deep relaxation which can stay with you. There are many recordings available online, or book a pre-holiday appointment with a therapist who specialises in these techniques.”
4. Set some social media boundaries
“Trying to live up to the expectations of the perfect selfie and Photoshopped celebrities on Instagram and other social media channels creates unrealistic pressures, which will severely challenge your ability to enjoy yourself on holiday and cause you unnecessary stress,” says Sheridan-Williams. “Only post the pictures that make you happy or add meaning to your holiday and forget about the number of likes and shares. Looking to others to make you happy will inevitably only leave you unfulfilled.”
5. Lie in the ‘active rest’ position for 10 minutes a day
Ilia Daoussi from The Society of Teachers of the Alexander Technique suggests lying down in the ‘semi-supine’ position, also known as ‘active rest’, at least once a day during a holiday. Lie on the floor with a couple of books (or something the equivalent height) under your head, and bend your knees with your feet flat on the floor, shoulder width apart. You can easily do this by the pool, or on your beach lounger.
“Think of the whole of your back, starting at your tailbone and gradually work all the way up to the top of your spine, with the idea of a gentle unfurling all the way up, together with a widening of your torso,” says Daoussi.
“There’s no better time get into the habit of doing this than when you’re away from your daily routine. It’s the best way to restore and reconnect the body and mind. Lying down on the floor isn’t instinctive when you need to de-stress but the impact that the semi-supine has is immediately palpable; and it’s healthier, quicker and more effective than a glass of wine.”