How to Recreate the Holiday Mindset.
A holiday is more than a new environment; it’s a permission device.
How energised and refreshed do you feel on a scale of 1 to 10?
If you’re anything below a seven, you may need to question how you spent your December break. Did you take the time to relax truly, or were you continually searching for something to do so you felt like you weren’t wasting the break?
We have all been in a constant mode of doing the last two years. We’ve rehearsed busyness for so long that it feels unnatural to take our foot off the gas and practice the mode of being. It feels foreign and honestly uncomfortable.
Do not despair if you feel like you missed your gap to get some much-needed downtime. Here are some practices you can introduce to cultivate the holiday mindset from the comfort of your office chair all year round:
A holiday is more than a new environment; it’s a permission device.
What makes a holiday mindset so different from the typical working week?
When you are on holiday, you allow yourself the space to design your days free of structure and allow them to unfold organically. There is never a fear of wasting time or spending it on the wrong activities.
The pandemic within the pandemic is this thought process of ‘I should be’. When working on one task, there is a mental tug of war that you should be working on something else.
When you are with family, you feel guilty that you should be working and vice versa. This guilt and distraction prevent you from enjoying the activity at hand because you are constantly second-guessing if it’s the right thing to do.
If you’re on holiday, do you lie on the beach and think to yourself, ‘Is this the right thing to do now? Maybe I should rather be going for a walk?’. Never!
You are always content and present to your decision. You don’t have a mindset of time scarcity because you know that you can read your book or go for a bike ride once you are done lying on the beach.
There isn’t the fear of running out of time. You have the headspace of time abundance. You allow yourself to enjoy each activity and be fully present.
How would it change your world if you could operate like this now?
How can you design your day to achieve the same mindset?
You don’t need more time to achieve this; you need to stop second-guessing how you spend it. Go back to basics and plan your day the night before; even better, plan your week before you are in it.
You have to know what your priorities are and schedule in time daily to make progress. It’s not about getting it all done in one day but choosing the activities that will bring the most forward movement.
Perhaps you may need to wake up earlier to create this space, but the point is to insert activities that put you into a peak state for the day. If you are not triggering yourself and setting your intentions for the day ahead, you will be at the mercy of everyone else’s urgencies and emails.
A location cannot be your permission device to design days you enjoy all year round. Of course, there are new stresses and responsibilities in your typical work week, but this does not mean you need to sacrifice every pocket of time for work.
Now that you’re back into the swing of things, it can feel like your personal time has shrunk into non-existence. Beware of falling into the destructive self-talk of ‘I don’t have enough time for self-care’.
I had the opposite of this experience on my holiday. I usually carve out an hour in the morning for my yoga, meditation and journaling. My time was cut down to as little as 15 minutes on holiday. And some days, it was zero in the mornings, depending on what time the kids woke up.
Rather than resent my routine being interrupted, I embraced it and had to get creative about bringing these practices back into my day.
The starting point was letting go of the attachment to the comfort zone of my routine. I like things to happen in a particular way; as much as holidays are relaxing, they bring a new routine with them.
Instead of a seated meditation, I would focus on my breathing while driving. The point was to create a few minutes of mindfulness throughout the day rather than have one formal time for it.
Now that you’re back into your regular routine, how can you reimagine self-care?
If you can’t manage a dedicated time slot for your exercise or feel like you don’t have 30 minutes to spare in the morning, think about how can you introduce exercise snacks? Insert 5-minute micro bursts throughout the day; some examples are:
· Take some deep breaths in the morning and between meetings
· Jogging on the spot mid-morning
· Stretching at lunch
· Squats or yoga in the late afternoon
Self-care is not a luxury that happens on holiday; it must be part of your daily routine to maintain the energy and headspace for stressful and challenging times.
Introduce vacation days.
When you think back to your December break, what are the memories that make you smile? What did you absolutely love doing?
Even if you never left your city, what were the daily activities that gave you a chance to recharge? It could be as simple as a morning walk to your favourite coffee shop, spending time in your garden, reading a good book in the sun or baking up a storm in your kitchen?
How can you bring these rejuvenating activities into your daily or weekly schedule? You don’t have to wait for the weekend to indulge in these simple pleasures.
Schedule in time on a Wednesday afternoon or a Saturday morning for the activities that energise you from the inside out. It doesn’t have to be more than 20 minutes, but the point is to have little gaps in your week that you actively look forward to.
If you know Wednesday’s are your baking day, you can search for recipes on the weekend or download a new book? Anticipation is half the fun of the activity itself.
Please don’t wait for your life to get calmer to permit yourself to enjoy these non-work activities; I think it’s pretty clear it will never feel like the right time. You need to deliberately carve time out in your calendar to make this a reality.
Now, if you’re brave, you can step it up a notch and introduce a full-blown vacation day.
What about taking an entire day off per month to recreate your holiday mindset? Again, anticipation is a powerful motivator to ensure you get through your work commitments so that you can enjoy your vacation day.
Let your team know that you have taken leave on that specific day two weeks in advance, so they know you will be offline and can plan accordingly.
What about booking yourself on a cooking course or a spa day? The point is your day off should excite you; it shouldn’t turn into a day where you catch up on emails.
Don’t create unnecessary pressure.
A few years ago, I went to Paris with my husband for the first time. Our first day turned out to be a disaster because I insisted we visit at least four of the main attractions in one day, which left us exhausted.
The next day, we changed the strategy and chose two activities. We did less but better; it was a quality day rather than trying to force too much into one day for fear of missing out.
The same lesson is true in your working week. It’s one thing to have work stress, but it’s another to inflict additional pressure on yourself.
When someone asks you to do something, avoid the default answer of ‘yes, I’ll get it done tomorrow’.
Instead, you can say, ‘let me check my calendar, and I’ll get back to you’. This response gives you a buffer between committing to something without clear visibility of your current commitments.
Once you have reviewed your commitments, manage their expectations and say something like ‘my diary is swamped until Monday morning. Would Monday afternoon work for you?’. They will most likely say yes unless there is a genuine urgency.
Get better at managing other people’s expectations, so you don’t create additional pressure for yourself, and you can at least enjoy your workdays.
Adopt the mantra of less but better, and it will change the way you experience your days.
The simple habit of being on time can create more ease into your day. You know that person who pushes everything to the last second and either just makes it on time or inevitably is begging for forgiveness for being late.
Being punctual and planning ahead is a practice that helps make your day better on so many levels. If you give yourself ample time to arrive somewhere, you avoid a panicked and stressful drive.
If you arrive 20 minutes early to the appointment, how fantastic! Keep a book on you and catch up on some much needed reading time.
Being late only stresses you and this affects your decisions and your mood. Punctuality is not a skill you are born with; it is a discipline that you can master and it will change your world.
Allow your mind to wander.
Like you, it takes me a few days to truly unwind on holiday and shift into the space of being rather than constant doing. I spent the first week of my leave trying to fit in productive work when I had a gap; I would write a blog or spend time on my masters program.
At the end of the first week, I wondered why I wasn’t feeling relaxed and knew I had to change my strategy.
There are two activities that I forced myself to do as an alternative to working, and I am so grateful I did because it changed my holiday and forced me to relax.
The one was watching movie classics with my family such as Mrs. Doubtfire and Big. I hadn’t sat through an entire movie in over a year, and I forgot how important it is to allow ourselves downtime to laugh and indulge in pure escapism.
The second activity was a 2000 piece family puzzle. We had the puzzle laid out on the dining room table, and every time someone had a few minutes, they would add a few pieces. In the beginning, it felt like a needle in a haystack. Towards the end of the trip, it felt like a genuine victory to find a matching piece.
I used the puzzle to keep me present and focused on something non-work-related. It became my default activity when I wanted to try and squeeze in some work, making a world of difference.
What can you introduce into your workweek to give you a mental break now and then? It could be adult colouring, a puzzle, a doodle book — you fill in the blank.
Setting up your environment to give your mind an alternative to checking emails or the social feeds when you do get a gap between meetings, will help you recreate a calmer and more focused mind.
Give yourself permission.
Everything you have read means nothing until you give yourself permission to do things differently than last year.
Drop the ‘should be’ mental chatter, and permit yourself to create mornings and weeks you look forward to. Schedule a vacation activity into your week to create excitement and something to look forward to.
Be aware of giving your precious time away and manage expectations so you can make progress on the work that truly matters.
Be kind to yourself and start making some profound changes now. If you’re relying on your leave to alleviate your near burnout, then it’s too late. Get better at making recovery a daily and weekly responsibility.
Here’s to recreating your holiday mindset,