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How to make the most of your annual leave: A sideways look at holidays

How to make the most of your annual leave: A sideways look at holidays

Summer has arrived and many of us will be planning a week or two off to relax or take a holiday. Our resident psychologist, Rachel Ward Lilley, will be sharing a series of articles over the next couple of months talking about the benefits of taking a break and relaxing over the summer. This week, Rachel focuses on how to enjoy and make the most of your annual leave.

These last eighteen months have been life-changing in many ways and one of those is how we do holidays. It would be nice if our work-life balance were so perfect that holidays became unnecessary but, let’s face it, for most of us that is something of a pipe dream. Holidays are ‘awarded’ to us by our employers or earned through our own hard work: either way, they are valuable to our wellbeing. We can get so busy making money that we lose sight of the fact that there is more to life. And work is tiring, both physically and mentally. Everyone needs a break from its highs and lows and, at this time of year, what could be better than taking time off to burst out of the routine and top-up our energy with a summer holiday?

So, we plot and plan, make a booking and begin to look forward to, maybe, a couple of weeks of doing just what we fancy. Our hopes and expectations are high and, as the time approaches, excitement begins to build. But, as with all plans, there is the possibility that things may go wrong and, if the outcome fails to meet our expectations, we could be in for a costly disappointment, a dose of unwanted stress, or both. But there are steps we can take to avoid such an outcome, simply by managing expectations.

We don’t all have the same notion of what makes the perfect holiday – sun, sea and sand are not everyone’s ideal – so here are some alternative suggestions, with an emphasis on keeping them simple, inexpensive and relaxed. Unless you are really set upon going somewhere exotic, your holiday doesn’t have to involve long-distance travel. Do a cost/benefit analysis. Consider the amount of money and time you will spend on travel and weigh it against what you really want to get in return, remembering that adventures are made not only on location, but also in the mind.

If holidays are about needing to escape from our everyday surroundings, this can be done, at its simplest, merely by changing routines. For example, instead of going away for the duration, try staying put and spending your days differently. Pursue your interests and hobbies, take day trips to places that you would not normally have time to visit, stimulate your imagination with a variety of experiences close to home yet outside your ordinary scope.

This is hard-core staycationing – too much for most of us – but it is a good starting point for re-evaluating the benefits of foreign holidays. And if you want a change of scene, choose somewhere in the UK. The restrictions on travelling abroad have renewed our appreciation of Britain as a place of natural beauty, historical interest and thriving multi-culturalism, all attractions that are not to be under-estimated. They take us out of the work-zone, rejuvenate mind and body and add to our life experience.

If you want sunshine every day, then yes, you may be disappointed by the weather at home. Yet thanks to that same, variable weather, our countryside is cloaked in its finest colours and looking its best. Nature is alive and bursting with vigour, which is in itself a tonic to our spirits. Think of a summer holiday not just as time off work but also as a celebration of the season – come rain or shine – and don’t pin all your hopes on one thing. A change really can be as good as a rest.

Rachel Ward Lilley is a business and educational psychologist. She has worked for many years advising SMEs and her current work relates to issues of resilience, communication, personal development, team building and motivation. Over the past 12 years Rachel has extended her work into the educational field.  Find out more here.

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