How to manage stress before and after your holiday

Posted on: July 21, 2015 by Andrew Kinder

With summer in full swing, many of us are looking forward to the holidays – a chance to replenish our bodies, break old habits, try new experiences and enjoy the sunshine. It’s important to have realistic expectations though as holidays can also be stressful – travelling to the airport, reading work emails, and dealing with extremes of temperature. I talk to many people who find it challenging to manage their workloads before and after a holiday. Here I give my practical tips on how to manage stress during this period so you can enjoy your holiday to its full potential!

Preparing for your holiday

  • Delegate and train - prepare as early as possible – consider tasks you can delegate to your colleagues and focus on training and mentoring well before your holiday so your team can build up their experience
  • Give verbal handovers – they can save time rather than email handovers and help to ensure understanding and task prioritization for your colleagues
  • Set up rules for your inbox – for your email to go in a folder so you have a ‘clean slate’ when you return to the office or auto-forward your emails to a colleague (with their permission)
  • Consider auto-deleting emails - some financial services companies actually switch off their staff’s email when they’re on holiday, in part due to compliance, but also to stop people making decisions out of context when they might not be aware of how a situation has progressed in the office. Daimler has launched a ‘Mail on Holiday’ app where employees could opt to use the tool which auto-deletes email and sends a message back to the sender with details on who they should contact instead. This has helped save Daimler’s holidaying workers from a bulging inbox on their return

Coping with your return to work

You’re now feeling relaxed and rejuvenated from your holiday so you don’t want to undo all the good work!

  • Keep 1-2 days free of meetings so you can catch up properly and reflect
  • Remember good email etiquette – read your email in ‘conversation’ view, focusing on the most recent email strings first so you can check if problems have already resolved. Prioritize email where you are on the To: line vs those emails that you are cc’ed in. If you’ve put your holiday email in a folder, scan the emails and focus your time on verbal updates from colleagues to summarize activity for you. Use it as an opportunity to catch up with them
  • Keep things in perspective – sometimes tasks that you handed over don’t get done or mistakes happen which can be frustrating. Consider why the tasks haven’t been completed – was it because your colleague’s time was diverted to a more pressing task or perhaps they haven’t had sufficient training? Discuss what would help them in future and what can be learned from the experience
  • Recognise that the first week back will be intense – give yourself time to recover and ease back into the work schedule. Plan time to relax in the evenings and minimise your social life while you adjust back into your routine

Holidays are a fantastic time to reflect on your life and career so it’s important to take your annual leave. It’s an opportunity to switch off from the day-to-day and review your goals. Ask yourself coaching questions such as: ‘In 10 years’ time do I still want to be doing this? What else would I like to do?’ Hopefully, these tips will help to maximise your wellbeing on holiday and beyond…

For more tips on building your personal resilience see my previous post here.

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About Andrew Kinder
Head of Mental Health Services at Optima Health
As Professional Head of Mental Health Services at Optima Health, Andrew Kinder takes a lead on delivering its Wellbeing@work programme, which works globally to improve the health and wellbeing of its employees. Andrew has made a unique contribution in the area of counselling in the workplace over the last 15 years. He has been a leader in this specialist field work over this period, serving on the Executive Committee of the BACP Workplace (formerly Association for Counselling at Work). He has also promoted workplace counselling through committee work at the British Psychological Society’s Division of Counselling, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) and the Commercial Occupational Health Providers Association. He was recently awarded a Fellowship by BACP.