Friday, 16 July 2010

Are you suffering from Holiday Deficit Disorder?

The holidays we Europeans are granted are often marvelled at (and sometimes ridiculed) by our North American colleagues. Currently however, the average vacation in America is being quoted at a mere three to four days - a long weekend. And this year, according to a recent survey, one in seven Americans will take no holiday break at all. In strong defence of the benefits of taking a break, read on to discover what happens when we do not switch off and how you can begin to redress the balance, if you think you are suffering from holiday deficit disorder:

- Working more than 48 hours a week doubles the load of stress our bodies are under. It puts one on course for heart disease due to a poorer quality lifestyle and also to our bodies increasing cholesterol production.

- A culture where working overtime is the norm is counterproductive as work is conducted by fatigued brains. This fatigue then seeps into regular working hours. Many studies show managers to be running on too little sleep.

- Companies who have a competitive "last to leave the office" culture generally suffer from poorer creativity, poorer tolerance of new ideas and are more prone to conflict. When we are stressed for too long our intelligent thinking capability goes out the window. As the brain's frontal lobes shut down (the intelligent thinking part) our "prehistoric brain" (the amygdyla) kicks into action, severely inhibiting intelligent thought in favour of survival.

- People who bring the "productivity" mentality on holiday go back to work exhausted (e.g. measuring number of sights seen, trying to cram in too many things into a short three day break, etc.).

So what can you do? Here are a few suggestions:

- Do things relating to your passions and build a holiday around the things you like to do with your friends or family.

- Practice the fine art of aimless wandering when on holiday. Practice letting go, exploring and discovering, with no other purpose than that of wandering!

- Linger with friends or family over at least one meal time per day.

- Put on your play hat. Connect with play, with your kids, your pets and loved ones.

- Enjoy the medecine of laughter. When was the last time you & loved ones laughed together? Relationships are much more resilient and mistakes more readily forgiven where laughter is present.

- Learn to live well in the moment as well as for the future. Life will pass by quick enough. Will you discover later on that most of yours was spent trying to fulfill the ambitions of your organisation at the expense of yours & those of people close to you? If this is not possible in your current job, consider what you need to do to find work with a better employer, one who actively promotes work-life balance.

- Recognise the impact of your own ambitions. Are you being guided by achievements which in hindsight no longer matter; or simply feel the need for high-adrenalin? If so, try to explore what it is you are really seeking? People who describe themselves as "Type A" (high-achievers); or "Type T" (high risk-takers or "adrenalin junkies" even) are prone to compromising important relationships and longer-term quality of life in order to experience the short-lived highs of achievements or thrill-seeking. Learning what you need to address in order to adapt to longer-term rewarding alternatives will bring healthy balance to your life and more harmony to your relationships.

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