As we edge out of winter and descend into the brighter months, many of us are beginning to think about and plan our vacations. Most of us that are fortunate enough to get away in the coming months hope and expect to have a rejuvenating and enjoyable experience. However, this is not always the case. Vacation time, particularly for those with younger (or older) families, can be wrought with stress and anxiety. Most people are probably familiar with the concept of needing a vacation from their vacation. Thankfully, psychological research has yielded some valuable information that can help to avoid such unnecessary stresses and help you to make the most of your well-earned vacation time.

So in terms of preparation, what type of trip should you take this year? Well that is entirely up to you but research suggests that planning a trip that includes activities that are both relaxing and pleasurable leads to higher levels of subjective well-being in the time following a vacation. This might sound pretty obvious of course everyone wants relaxation and pleasure from a holiday, but we don’t always find it. The key here that research has demonstrated is the role of autonomy in carrying out these activities. This refers to having control over doing the type of activities that you want to do. If your partner has arranged for you both to go backpacking around Europe but you’d prefer to sip cocktails poolside for two weeks, this lack of autonomy is going to make it pretty difficult for you to experience the relaxation and pleasure that you want from a vacation.

When you get there, switch off. Volumes of research studies are emerging that highlight the negative consequences of excessive smartphone use.  These negative consequences include increases in overall levels of stress, increases in interpersonal problems and difficulties in maintaining a life-work balance. So in order to get the best out of your vacation, try your leave your work phone alone. Of course, with reference to the earlier point, autonomy is again key to making the best of your vacation. If you feel that you want rather than need to check your emails then go right ahead. Having autonomy means that at the very least, you can have control about when you carry out work tasks and they are not forced upon you at some inconvenient time. It’s your vacation after all, so do what works for you.

In order to maximise the effects that your vacation has had on your well-being, insure that the transition back to home and work is as smooth as possible. Research suggests leaving at least a day or two between your return from vacation and starting back to work or school. This will allow you to recover and mentally prepare for the demands of your return to work. As well as this, on your return to work feel free to indulge yourself in mini-vacations activities. Making regular plans with friends and family can help to stave off the post-holiday blues. This stands to anyone who is unable to take a lengthy vacation this year. By incorporating regularly enjoyable activities or min-getaways, you can maximise the positive effects that time away from work can have. After all, vacation time has been shown to improve subsequent work performance and job satisfaction, reduce absenteeism and contribute to improved creativity at work so be sure to make the most of it.


Ms. Niamh Allen, M.A. B.Sc.

Making a vacation a vacation

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