How to beat half term holiday stress

Planning to get away for half term? Find out why holidays aren’t as relaxing as they should be for some people – and how to unwind on yours. 

We’re counting down the days until the first half term of the academic year – and the chance to relax and unwind with family. If you’re lucky enough to have a late summer getaway planned, you’ll be even more excited at the prospect of a break from your daily routine.

Going on holiday and soaking up the sun has been proven to help hormone levels; without enough sunlight exposure, our serotonin levels can dip, which is associated with a higher risk of seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

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A third of us feel stressed while on holiday

However, while a holiday may seem like the perfect opportunity to unwind, the reality can be quite different – as a new study by Hayes & Jarvis has revealed.

An astounding third of the UK’s population admits to feeling stressed while on holiday because of work worries. And a further 30% have had their holiday ruined by work by receiving unwanted phone calls and emails from the office.

We’re also a nation who find it hard to switch off apparently – even when we’re relaxing by the pool or at the beach. A third of us check our work emails and just under half (44%) of us admit to checking social media everyday.

How to switch off from work when you’re on holiday

We understand that switching off from your phone and work can be difficult. But if you want to ensure that your had term break is the relaxing holiday you planned, you need to let go – even just a little.

To help you relax, four experts share their tips for the four pillars of wellbeing: mental, communication, physical and nutrition – all taken from this handy wellbeing guide.

1) Look after your mental health

When you’re going away on holiday there are many things to think about, such as packing and also ensuring everything runs smoothly at home in your absence. It also might also be that your workload is making you anxious about going on holiday.

However, taking a break from work is important too – it doesn’t have to mean going abroad but simply taking a week off can be essential to recharge your batteries. Juggling all of these demands can be very stressful yet it is helpful to try and reign in your worries so that you can head off on holiday with a clear mind, feeling excited not exhausted.

If you are worried about going on holiday you could think about the list of tasks you need to do and what you need to pack so that you can keep track of where you’re at.

And try to get anything you can do well in advance, like booking travel insurance or sorting transport to and from airports, out the way well ahead of your departure date, so you don’t find yourself panicking about them at the last minute. (By Stephen Buckley from mind.org.)

2) Make sure you communicate

To minimise stress and conflict, make sure you manage your holiday expectations before you leave. Discuss what sort of holiday you’d like to have. If you’re a beach and book girl, while your other half wants to raft and ride, then you may need to agree on some compromises before you go.

When you’re there, allow that it may take 2-3 days to settle in to the new place and give yourself and your family and friends the benefit of the doubt for a few days as you all unwind.

Before you come home, reminisce about the best bits so that you fix them in your mind, and they’ll keep de-stressing you for a while when you get back. (By therapist Joanne Sumner.)

3) Get physical

A yoga and meditation session can be the perfect opportunity to find reflection and space among a hectic travel schedule.

Even a short 20 minute session to get your blood flowing, your muscles stretching and your body moving, can keep any stiffness at bay from long plane or car journeys – and provide a refreshing energy boost to help with jet-lag.

Often struggle to sleep soundly in a different bed? A gentle restorative practice and short meditation at the end of an evening can calm the mind, soothing you into a deep and restful sleep even whilst in unfamiliar surroundings. (By yoga instructor Courtenay Pipkin.)

4) Eat well

It can be tempting to skip meals on holiday, but you may end up eating more high calorie foods throughout the day. Instead, stick to your usual meal routine to help keep you full and ensure you’re getting plenty of nutrients.

Don’t forget about fibre too – keeping your digestive system healthy can be hard for some people on holiday. Try to keep a similar diet when you’re away, as well as eating regularly and making sure you’re getting plenty of fibre from whole grains (opt for wholegrain breads where possible).

Make sure you eat plenty of fruit and vegetables as well. This should help you keep your digestive system in order. (By nutritionist Charlotte Stirling-Reed.)

Read more tips on caring for your mental health

You can read more advice on your mental wellbeing in these articles:

You can read more tips at The Four Pillars of Holiday Relaxation.