Holidays are wonderful. A great holiday gives us a chance to relax and re-energise, and brings us back to our regular life recharged and ready to go. But all around the world, people are taking fewer and fewer holidays. Whether you work for someone else or yourself, the pressure is on to maximise output and holidays just aren’t prioritised – even though the benefits of regular holidays include greater creative output and less sick days taken. If you know you need a holiday but you can’t afford to take one, what can you do?
Try a ‘habit holiday’
A habit holiday means giving ourselves a chance to take a break in one (or a few) areas in our life while carrying on as usual in all the other areas. Depending on the area chosen, you can give yourself a 24 hour holiday or up to a week’s holiday.
Habit holidays are taken in areas of our life where we are generally ‘good’ and which require more energy to maintain than if we slacked off. They are areas that contribute to our overall goals and values in life. Even though this means they’re wonderful habits, when we’re in high performance mode in many areas of our life, we become drained of energy. A short break in these areas won’t derail us from our overall purpose and ability to accomplish our goals. It just frees up some energy short term.
Habit holiday Ideas
What habits you have and what you’re prepared to let slide will be different for everyone. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
Eating Holiday - Take one day off from cooking and eating well and just eat convenience foods.
Professional development holiday – if you’re always studying outside of work hours, stop for a few days.
Decision Making holiday – outsource decisions that don’t have a major impact on you to the roll of a dice or the flip of a coin for a week.
Technology Break – Take a day off from using all electronic devices – including the TV.
Social Media holiday – go AWOL for a week. Let people know in advance if you have to. You will catch up.
News holiday – No paper, no news websites for a week.
Exercise Holiday – Take a few days off from exercising
Housework Holiday – Just don’t do the dishes, washing etc. until tomorrow.
Children holiday – You can ask a friend to look after them, just this once. They can have a frozen meal and no bath every so often and still grow up to be amazing human beings.
Make sure you get the full benefits
A critical part of the holiday is making sure the time you save from taking the break doesn’t just end up going to other chores or obligations. So have a think about what you personally love most about holidays. Is it the chance to sleep in, to read a trashy novel, to spend time in nature, to be pampered, to go somewhere new, to meet new people, to overindulge in food and drink? Whatever you like best about holidays becomes the activity you do with the extra time you have. So schedule a massage, sleep in, lie in the sun reading, have a picnic, take a new route to work or start a conversation in a pub – take the best part about holidays and make a miniature version to fit with the space created by your habit holiday!
Do habit holidays really make a difference?
When we feel we need a holiday, it’s often due to feeling overwhelmed or out of control of our regular life. A habit holiday gives us back a sense of control because we take charge. As the holiday frees up a bit of time and makes us feel like we’re being taken care of, it reduces feeling overwhelmed and unable to meet demands. With less to do and more energy to do it, balance is restored!
Realistically, we all drop out of our habits from time to time anyway. Doing it intentionally makes it feel purposeful, rather than giving up because it got too hard. A habit holiday keeps up our morale, and means we’ll return to the habit.
How often do we need to take holidays?
In Australia, full time employees usually receive four paid weeks of leave a year. This works out nicely into 12 weeks of consistency followed by a week’s break, repeated four times a year. Twelve weeks is also the time frame for many types of self-improvement courses such as diet and exercise programs and bundled coaching arrangements, so having a habit holiday every few months, if you don't take a 'proper' holiday, is about right.
A habit holiday is a reward to ourselves for consistency. As it’s impossible to maintain a habit perfectly forever, taking an intentional break every three months shows us that we are able to relax a habit without giving it up completely – which is what often happens if we push ourselves to be very strict in our area for a long period of time. Eventually we slip up, and if we don’t frame that slip up right, it’s all too easy to get disheartened and let the slip up turn into a stopping point.
If you’re still reluctant to ease up in even one area of your life for a few days, consider this: overworked, overwhelmed people have lowered immune system responses – if you don’t take a break, eventually your body makes you take a break by getting sick. Rather than go through that, doesn’t it make sense to ease off a bit now and avoid the next round of that nasty flu?
Are you overworked and overwhelmed? Consider a coaching session with me. I know lots more great tips and tricks like this to help you get back to feeling like you’re in the driver’s seat of your life. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Lana Hall, Psychologist. Helping you to live your best life, using the power of psychology.