How To Have A Proper Vacation (That’s Actually Stress-Free)


December is here, which means one thing: it’s finally time for your year-end vacation. There’s only one problem: why is that that your vacations never really make you feel truly well rested?

You’d think that going to far-flung, remote destinations would take your mind off your work. Goodness knows, you deserve it after having worked so hard. But somehow, you can’t seem to tear your mind off work. What’s happened to you?


Being unable to unplug isn’t a problem that’s exclusive to going on vacation. The irony is that we go on vacation to get our minds of work and unwind, but we don’t spend enough time or effort on training ourselves to properly mentally transition in and out of “work mode.” 

Without knowing how to really plug out, it’s no wonder that you don’t feel sufficiently well rested when you come back to the office. In fact, sometimes, you could end up feeling more exhausted than before. To that end, here are some tips on how to truly unplug and have a stress-free vacation.

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1. Cultivate mental presence


Unplugging from work is all about being mentally present. It sounds deceptively simple; how hard could it be to sit still and really live in the moment, instead of immediately wanting to fill up your time with something, anything at all?

As reported by The Straits Times earlier this year, recent surveys have reported that 1 in 2 Singaporeans feel stressed out by the thought of doing nothing.


Knowing this, it’s pretty unrealistic to expect to immediately be able to holistically relax the minute you get on the plane on the way to your vacation.

The key is to be intentional about cultivating mental presence in your daily life, not just while you’re on vacation. Psychological research has shown how integral this is to your reducing stress and anxiety.

Additionally, it’s integral in developing the ability to concentrate on the present: to really pay close attention to your co-workers and employees at work, and to get into high focus mode when you need to be ultra-productive as well.



2. Leave the laptop at home


It might seem glaringly obvious, but unless you really can’t avoid it, it’s probably better to leave your laptop behind at home while you’re on holiday. If you’re having enough trouble de-stressing on vacation, it’s because you can’t mentally delineate your work mode and your non-work mode. It’s crucial if you hope to achieve any semblance of work-life balance in the long run.


To help you along the process when you’re vacationing, specifically, it’s important that you separate your work from the rest of your life. Just knowing that your laptop is back at the hotel room or Airbnb waiting for you to catch up on work once you get back at the end of the day can stress you out.



3. Curb your phone-checking habits 


As much as it tends to be overlooked, our phone habits play a huge role in determining our ability (or lack thereof) to fully unplug. Since almost everyone uses smartphones these days, we all know that our smartphones are one of the best multi-tasking tools around: we do everything on our phones, from ordering food, to sending work emails and texts, to reading reports and articles, and playing games.


Given this reality, it’s no wonder that we’re compulsively reaching for our phones every few minutes. This itself can be hugely detrimental to our stress levels, in the same way that having your laptop around can make it more difficult to mentall unplug from work mode.

No one’s asking you to chuck your phones in a corner of the room the whole time you’re on vacation (it’s probably a monumental task, at this point.) The crux of the matter, though, is that it’s vital to curb your phone-checking habits on the daily, so that by the time you’re on vacation, you won’t be reaching for it as much anymore, especially not to check and reply work-related messages.



4. Give yourself buffer time to transition back into work mode


As tempting as it can be to choose a midnight flight for your return flight home, it’s not the best idea. Giving yourself buffer time to ease back into work mode when you return is crucial. That means giving yourself time to rest from travelling itself before you go back to work, especially if you’ll be taking a long-haul flight back home.


Doing things like picking a flight that lands at 11PM the night before your first day back at work, or jam-packing your schedule with meetings and appointments on your first day back, can be potentially exhausting.

Leaving some buffer time to ease yourself back into your routines, catch up on what you missed while you were gone, and pick up on your tasks where you left them is crucial.



5. KonMari everything. Everything.


It goes without saying that making sure you don’t leave any loose ends untied before you leave for vacation is essential. To that end, you need to get organised about everything. 


Take a leaf out of Marie Kondo’s books:

  • declutter your workspace
  • get your task lists organised
  • ensure there’s a system in place to make sure that you know where you need to pick up with your work when you get back,
  • be clear about who the respective contact persons are for different projects while you’re gone.

Ensuring that everything is in its proper place and that all the information you or your co-workers might need is easily accessible is of paramount importance.



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