It’s amazing the number of people that I’ve worked with that seem in worse condition after a holiday than before!  Usually they’ve looked forward to their vacation for ages and have spent considerable time planning and preparing for it.  In fact often the lead up to a vacation seems to create even more stress than their normal hectic life.  Then the big day arrives and off they go – with great anticipation – only to return after a week or in worse shape than they left.

I must admit I once was prone to this ‘annual vacation woes syndrome’.  The preparation was always stressful, what with making arrangements at work to cover every possibility while I was away, getting everything ready and packing to go (not just for myself, but the rest of the family as well in the early days) while ensuring everything would be safe on the home front and arrangements were made for all pets not going with us often left me completely wrung out by the start of our annual vacation.  But the planning and organizing didn’t stop there – oh no – it continued throughout the vacation!  If you want to find a really good Project Manager find a working mother who has pulled off a successful family vacation for a family of more than two!

And than it’s over and you arrive home – often as tired or more than when you left. But without a pause you’re immediately thrown back into your hectic schedule – with the additional burden of playing catch-up with everything that’s happened while you were away.  I used to joke on returning to the office that I needed a vacation to recover from my annual vacation.  And I usually found a lot of agreement, especially from the women  present – though since I worked in research there weren’t too many of them (interestingly enough – or not – the men often didn’t seem to have similar problems – but then they all had a wife at home to take care of things!).

It took awhile but I finally realized that there was a better way, one that ensured a much less stressful vacation time.  If you’d like to eliminate much of the stress that often accompanies your annual vacation consider following these 4 simple steps.

1. Don’t expect a single annual vacation to eliminate all the stress and tiredness that you’ve been accumulating since your last big vacation.  That puts way too much pressure on everything to go just right.  Be realistic in your expectations, especially if/when you’ve been disappointed in the past.

2.   Ask for help, don’t try to do everything yourself (this is a “biggie” for a lot of women – believe me, I know what I’m talking about here!).  Preparing to be away from work and home requires a lot of planning and organizing, but that doesn’t mean you have to play “Super-Woman”.  I’ve now found that as long as you’re reasonable people are quite willing to lend a helping hand – but as one neighbour said “we can’t help if we don’t know when you need it, so please – ask!”.  This need to ask is especially true if you’ve spent years posing as “Super-Woman” and doing everything yourself – people will have stopped looking to see if you need help and assume that you can manage on your own.

3.  Learn to delegate.  This is especially important if you have children (but may also apply to your husband and co-workers).  People are usually quite willing to let someone else do it for them, especially if they haven’t had to do anything in the past, and may not even think of offering to help out, whether before, during or after a vacation.  So delegate, don’t wait for them to volunteer, tell them what you want them to do.  It’s amazing how much even quite young children can do with a little bit of guidance.  In fact packing for a vacation can be quite exciting for them as they think about being someplace new (just don’t tell them packing is work!).

4.   Don’t put all your eggs in one basket – take “mini-vacations”.  Now a “mini-vacation”, as I define it, is anything that provides you with rest and relaxation.  It can be any length (but it’s mini – not a week away) but it must help you feel better.  A good way to identify what makes a good “Mini-vacation” for you is to make a list of activities that make you feel good, that leave you feeling relaxed and refreshed.  It could be as simple as spending a few minutes playing with a pet or reading to a child, or a longer stroll in your garden or a nearby park.  It could setting aside 20 minutes to meditate or reading a short storey by an author you enjoy.  In fact in making your list it’s helpful to divide it into activities that take up differing amounts of time – say 5 min., 10 min. 15 min. 30 min. 1 to several hours, a half day ot a whole day.  Once you’ve developed your list you can use it to identify an activity that fits the time you have and provides you with the needed R&R.  I’ve found that if I take time out every now and then for a little R&R I’m much more relaxed, less likely to bite someone’s head off and not expecting a one week annual vacation has to miraculously leave me a new person – rested, relaxed and stress free!  So the next time that things start to get a little crazy – take a “mini-vacation”, even if it’s just a 10 minute break to look at pictures of your favorite beach!

So, until next time, keep thriving :-)

Karen Switzer-Howse

Canada’s Premier Thrive Synergy Strategist


©2012 Karen Switzer-Howse