Have you ever noticed how quickly the tension creeps back into your shoulders as you stand in baggage claim waiting for your luggage on your last day of vacation? Or how your recollection of the hypnotic sound of the waves on the beach or the delicious meal you enjoyed the day before seem to all but disappear almost immediately?
Yep. Been there, done that. I have several of those t-shirts.
Here are 3 ways that you can reap the greatest benefit from that elusive time for many known as vacation:
1) Disconnect while you are away.
Make a point to leave the office physically and mentally when you go away. Sabine Sonnentag, Ph.D. found that “psychological detachment”, the state of disengaging from work during non-work time could improve life satisfaction and enhance on-the-job performance.
Sonnentag suggests that we can increase our likelihood of fully extracting ourselves from the workplace by taking vacation during times when workloads are low and deadlines aren’t hanging over your head.
Yes, I know all too well that this is easier said than done, but you are absolutely worth the investment of time required to rejuvenate and re-energize yourself.
Read the sentence above again until you believe it. I’m completely serious.
To put it bluntly: the world will not likely implode during your absence. The odds really are low. You can absolutely take steps before your vacation to ensure that you won’t need to connect to take care of business. So do that so you can let go.
Collaboration is about building trust and empowering others to take action in your absence. Responsible leadership additionally means using the ‘oxygen mask’ to save yourself from time-to-time so you can return refreshed and ready to execute at the top of your game.
Jeroen Nawjin, Ph.D. and a team of researchers in the Netherlands found that post-vacation happiness was directly correlated with the amount of relaxation or stress encountered by the individual traveler (i.e. the more stressful the time away, the lower the level of post-trip bliss).
In Nawjin’s study, the only individuals who reported a positive increase in happiness after their trips were those who indicated that they were ‘very relaxed’; even those who said they were ‘relaxed’ on their trip didn’t see an upwards tick. Wow.
The ability to disconnect on vacation is critical. Focus on the moment and not your to-dos.
2) Prepare for re-entry
You can modestly extend the joy from your trip by telling family and friends about your best experiences and sharing photos or keepsakes. However, we all must eventually return to the usual routine.
While you may think that it is best to use every bit of vacation time away from home, there can actually be value in building in some time to catch up on the basics (i.e. unpacking, opening mail, doing laundry, etc.) in preparation for the week ahead to reduce those items as potential stressors.
Prepare yourself for success by thinking about the things that will make your return to life as you know it easier.
Getting home from Vegas at midnight with the plan to return to work the next day at 8 am seems like a good idea beforehand. Trust me when I say it wasn’t. Er, it isn’t.
3) Plan shorter, more frequent trips
So do longer vacations make you happier? Nawjin suggests that post-vacation happiness isn’t ultimately associated with the length of a vacation. The increase in happiness noted for travelers in his study was associated primarily with the planning for and excitement about the trip beforehand. Anticipation itself creates positive emotion.
Researcher Charlotte Fritz, Ph.D. likewise suggests that feelings of well being seem to drop off about 2 weeks after a vacation experience independent of the length. Jessica de Bloom, Ph.D. and her colleagues found that the effects of vacation typically faded in a week.
So. The 7-day cruise may not ultimately make you any happier afterwards than the getaway over a long weekend. Consider taking several smaller trips throughout the year if possible to use the anticipation factor to your advantage on multiple occasions.
Most importantly, as obvious as this may seem, make sure that your time away includes activities that you enjoy. Plan and execute the vacation that you honestly want to take; compromise may be key if you are traveling with others.
Think about how you can apply these 3 suggestions to get more out of your vacation time, be it a ‘staycation’ in town or the most exotic trip thousands of miles from home.
Engineer Your Bliss: Make a personal commitment to completely disconnect from work during your next vacation (this means devices, thoughts and energy); see how you feel as a result.
Do you typically need a vacation from your vacation? Share in the comments below.
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