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How to *actually* switch off and relax when you’re on holiday

Going away on holiday is supposed to be relaxing, but if you struggle to switch off, it can be hard to unwind on demand. Here, an expert explains how to help yourself to do just that. 

After the chaos and uncertainty of the last couple of years, it’s hardly surprising that so many of us feel in need of a break. 

Whether you’re feeling stressed, need an escape from the news cycle or are struggling to juggle all your responsibilities, the chance to spend a week relaxing on the beach or exploring an unfamiliar city is just what the doctor ordered.

The only problem? As much as you might feel in need of a break, switching off might not prove as easy as you expect it to be – especially if you’re used to being busy all the time. 

Being in a relaxing environment certainly helps, but if your mind is still preoccupied with a million and one things, it can be hard to reap the benefits of spending time away.  

Of course, the last thing you want is to feel wired the whole time you’re on holiday. Everyone deserves the chance to relax, unwind and enjoy some time away from the buzz of everyday life – and that’s where this article comes in.

To give you the tools you need to enjoy a restorative holiday this summer, we asked psychotherapist and Counselling Directory member Laura Duester to share her top tips for switching off. Here’s what she had to say. 

Switch off work messages

As tempting as it may be to check in on work while you’re away, doing so will only add to your stress levels and make it harder for you to relax in the long run. 

“It’s impossible to relax on holiday if you’re constantly checking and responding to work messages,” Duester explains. “Before leaving, try to hand over any urgent work to colleagues, set a holiday voicemail and email autoreply (including your return to work date), and inform any important contacts or clients. You can then turn off your notifications and leave your work laptop and phone at home. 

“Alternatively, if you can’t completely switch off from work while you’re away, plan to log in once a day at a set time, limit how long you spend checking messages and only reply to the most urgent/pressing issues.”

Switching off is all about giving yourself space to breathe.

Decide your holiday priorities

To remove any holiday-related stress, Duester recommends setting some priorities for your trip before you leave, so you know exactly what you want to see, do and experience. 

“What’s the priority for your holiday – do you want relaxation, family time, sightseeing, sporting activities or something else?” Duester says. 

“There’s never enough time to do everything, so work out what’s most important to you and prioritise that. It might help to imagine how you’ll feel when the holiday is over – what will you want to remember that you’ve done and enjoyed?”

Put your worries on hold

If you’re someone who struggles to put their worries aside, this simple technique is a great way to give yourself space to unwind.  

“Even when you’re on a sunny beach or exploring a new town, real-life worries can pop into your head and be hard to ignore,” Duester says. “Try writing down anything that’s bothering you and then mentally put your concern(s) on hold. 

“If the same thoughts pop up repeatedly, gently acknowledge them and let them go, telling yourself you’ll have a chance to worry about them later. You can return to your list of worries, and decide on what actions you need to take, when you get home.”

Putting your worries on hold until you get home will allow you to live in the moment.

Let go of unrealistic expectations

The process of going on holiday can be stressful and it’s likely you’ll run into a few roadblocks along the way. However, the way you think about these issues can make a world of difference to your ability to relax. 

“From flight delays to forgetting your hairbrush, there will always be things that go wrong on holiday,” Duester says. “While this can be frustrating when you’ve spent a lot of money and want everything to be perfect, the best strategy is to accept and manage any problems as they arise. 

“Let go of stress and expectations, take a deep breath, see if you can find a different solution and try to find the funny side (if possible).”

Ditch the guilt

Our fast-paced lifestyles have made it normal to feel guilty about taking time off – but don’t let that feeling stand in the way of giving yourself the break you deserve. 

“In today’s fast-paced society, slowing down and enjoying yourself can provoke serious feelings of guilt,” Duester explains. “Remind yourself that it’s your holiday and you’re allowed to take a break. If you want to ignore social media, have a siesta every day or read Mills & Boon novels, give yourself permission and enjoy it!”

Images: Getty

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