Ahhhh! The holidays have arrived. It’s time to wind down, unravel and distress… If only you could.
I want you to really recharge, refuel and restore these holidays – and every holiday season, weekend getaway or momentary lapse in routine.
But… I know that’s easier said than done.
There’s no denying that turning ON your OFF switch has incredible benefits for both your mental and physical health.
Holidays can be fun and exciting but they’re also a breeding ground for stress and exhaustion if you don’t take the time to really unwind. As an added benefit for other people (not just yourself) really relaxing on your next holiday can make you a better mother, wife, partner, sister, employee or friend when you return.
As someone who has difficulty winding down and ‘just doing nothing’ I’ve spent a lot of time researching and testing what works and doesn’t work for me.
Most of the answers I found were centred around meditation, mindfulness and yoga – which are all fantastic if that’s what works for you. But I learnt many years ago (after even more years of frustrating ‘failure’ to switch off) that these sorts of approaches just weren’t all for me.
Maybe one day they will but for now I had to find alternative ways to really relax.
Conversations with others made me realise that I certainly wasn’t the only one who had trouble turning on their off switch.
Can you relate?
If you tell a child not to do something, chances are they’ll rebel and just want to do it even more. My adult brain works in much the same way. Tell it to relax and think about nothing then it will suddenly start to fire and think about everything!
But wait. It’s not all bad news. Time out, time off, relaxation – whatever we want to call it – are a really important part of optimising brain health and productivity.
“I hear many people share with me that they just ‘have to do this thing’ before they can relax and slow down. The truth is that taking the time to be still and reflective actually increases productivity and gives more joy to what you’re doing when it’s time to take action again.”
― Maria Erving
Given my general inability to STOP, really relaxing is something I’ve had to work extra hard at doing over the years.
If you also find it a bit difficult, here are 5 really practical and actionable steps that you can take to help you switch off when you’re on holiday.
It’s time to recharge, refuel and replenish!
1. BE SILLY
In all seriousness, you need silliness. There’s nothing like being silly to remind you not to take life or yourself so seriously!
You may need to push the boundaries of your comfort zone to be silly. Plus, what’s completely normal for one person might be outrageously wacky and silly to someone else.
My way? I’ve sometimes enlisted assistance from the gorgeous little people in my life. My nephew, for example, is old enough to play silly games with me but not old enough to think that Aunty Lisa is “totally uncool” and not worth his time.
Some parents I’ve spoken to definitely don’t find that playing silly games with a toddler the best way to wind down. If anything it can do the complete opposite and wind everyone up!
2. IRRELEVANT READING
I love reading (or listening to) books, articles, podcasts and audiobooks about entrepreneurial success and creative business endeavours. Although, when I’m trying to switch off, reading these sorts of things really doesn’t help my mind relax.
Experience has taught me to leave these sorts of readings on the self for a time when I need inspiration and want to fire up with 100% commitment to work. Otherwise it’s like eating candy during a sugar detox.
You could even consider fictional books if, like me, your nose is often buried in non-fiction.
3. AVOID STIMULANTS
I know, I know. It’s really not like me to pass on the coffee hit. Matter of fact I’ve already had two while writing this.
But it can be difficult to wind down when you’re wound up with caffeine or other stimulants.
A strong espresso might be great on Monday morning back at the office (if you drink coffee) but it’s not such a good idea if you’re trying to unwind.
Every person handles stimulants like caffeine in different ways so figure out what works for you. You needn’t stop it all together but you might want to try dialling it back for a little while.
Like caffeine, music can act as a stimulant. When I’m trying to unwind I leave my favourite dance/techno tunes off the playlist and save them for my next trip to the gym.
Depending on your musical preferences, slow and soulful tunes, or even something classical might be better.
Personally, I’ve loved Vivaldi for years but the same music might bore you senseless.
For some of you, banning technology isn’t a problem, and you will easily leave your phone or laptop at home.
That’s not the case for me but on holidays I either:
A) Use it as little as possible
B) Monitor the types of content I’m consuming (see point #2)
Another advantage of a tech-ban is that you’ll automatically disconnect from social media. You can read more about the tremendous benefits of going on the media diet here. Boost your confidence, self-esteem and more!
Remember that by really relaxing these holidays, you’ll help your body and mind recharge. In turn, this has a hugely positive impact on both your physical and mental health.
Holidays can be such emotion-filled time of year so making some of these little tweaks to your holiday routine can really help calm it all down. Happy holidays!
I first published this in The Huffington Post. You can view it here.