Vacation Stress? How to Do It Right

By Ingrid Vaughan, MySmart HR & Leadership

They say the two most stressful days of the work year are the day before you go on vacation and the day after you come back. You look forward to going away for a week to relax, rejuvenate and forget about work, but the week before you leave you find yourself running around putting out fires, only to have new ones pop up. On the last day, you cram to get in everything that needs doing, delegating, organizing and head home to pack, organize and get ready to leave.

You get to your vacation destination stressed, exhausted and worried about what you may have forgotten. It takes you two or three days to wind down and on the fourth day, you’re actually starting to relax. Except that by day 6, you’re having symptoms of ‘return to work anxiety’ so you can’t enjoy your last day as you’ve already transitioned to work in your mind. You get back to mountains of tasks, 100 unread emails, and everyone needing your attention. You’re still exhausted because you only actually had two days of rest.

Here are a few tips to ensure your time off is really time off:

  1. Don’t wait until the week before to plan. Well before your vacation, overcommunicate and delegate the tasks that need to be done while you’re away and coordinate with those who will be filling in for you.
  2. Assign someone to get your emails while you’re gone. They can provide you with notes and follow-ups of what they’ve taken care of so your “get back to” list is not as long.
  3. Notify anyone who might be impacted, so they’re aware of how long you’ll be gone and who to go to in your absence. This pause can cause e-mailers to re-evaluate whether they need to reach out to you or if someone else can help.
  4. Be intentional about how you want to spend your time away. Leave your phone (laptop) in your room and refuse to re-engage. If this is hard, ask someone to help you be accountable to that goal.
  5. Find ways to deal with work-worry triggers so you can get the rest and fun you really need. Do you want to remember this vacation as the time you ….. (fill in the blank), or the time you spent on your phone or email worrying about what you left behind?
  6. When you return from vacation, go into work an hour early. Take time (ideally before you open your inbox) before the phone starts ringing and people line up at your desk, make a list of priorities and organize your week. Then tackle your new to-do list one item at a time.

Don’t fall into the stress vacation trap. Your time AWAY from work is as important as your time AT work. Your body and mind will thank you and you’ll be in a better place, mentally, to be productive and creative at work.