What is a holiday?
Many of us picture sandy white beaches, cocktails galore and sun on tap. Others may dream of a cabin: secluded, cosey and romantic. City breaks may be the favour or some; explorers getting lost in the buzz of somewhere new.
Not everyone is lucky enough to holiday in the typical sense. This may be due to finances, responsibilities, a lack of companionship or work restraints.
For the sake of this post (and life) a holiday is whatever you class as one.. and so it should be. Whether it be a 1 night stay away, a week off work catching up on chores and tv boxsets, a date night, or simple some much needed alone time. Anytime spent “switched off” can be viewed as a wonderful time – even if it isn’t insta glam.
In my line of work I have an abundance of “holidays”. Us lot in education are often told “aren’t you sOOoO lucky” “all those holidays”. They’re damn well deserved, but they’re not always wonderful.
Time off from work can be lonely. Does anyone else’s time off line up with my own? How lonely will I be? How the hell will I be able to afford to do so many fun and time consuming activities to fill my boredom…
Now despite the negative start – I love a good holiday. Whether it’s visiting a new county (read about my experience of taking my body on holiday), visiting family, or having a well deserved lie in with a cuppa and my pooch. It is the best time for self care.
But are holidays always perfect? Are they always restful? Are they exactly what they say on the tin?
I could be blissfully drinking a gin fizz, basking in the heat of the sun – my only worry being will my ginger pasty body burn through factor 50? A sensation of unease will start to flood my body. It creeps through my veins and submerses my body and doubt – whilst leaving a sickness in my tummy.
Is everyone ok?
Is everything and everyone that I left behind alright?
Whilst this is irrational thinking and I cannot spend my life locking up my nearest and dearest in a safe haven with padded walls… when you have learnt that the worst can happen and your wired brain is always on hand to give you a very detailed and dramatic list of everything that could ever possibly go wrong – is it any wonder?
Holidays call for down time. You’re switching your mind off from real life. No work, emails, responsibilities. You may even be lucky enough to not have to worry about housework. Whilst for some, it may be a breeze to switch from “on” to “off” – for others, there’s now a lot of freed up space in their minds. As a result, there’s now more room to worry.
Although it is not my intention to self sabotage my own holiday – sometimes this does happen. I want to break this ridiculous perception that every second spend on holiday mode is glorious and soothing.
You are normal if your anxiety goes on holiday with you.
As counteractive as this may sound – “I went on holiday to stop being anxious!” I hear you cry. You are allowed to be you, no matter the date, time or location. If that means having a wobbly (despite posting your latest insta #holidaygoals #nevercominghome pic) then so be it. Faking happiness will only make the situation more worse – more heightened.
So what can I do?
Anxious thoughts strive due to their intrusive and powerful nature. They’re intense because they’re supposed to be. If your fight/flight response was half-arsed and flakey, you wouldn’t have learnt not to touch fire, not to walk into traffic, not to approach a murderer…
But there’s no threat on holiday surely? Why is fight/flight even happening?
Because you’re away from the norm. Sadly, we live in a world where holidays and time off are a novelty. Unless you are 5 years deep into retirement – you won’t have necessarily gotten to grips with the art of doing sweet FA and enjoying it.
New routines, places, people, food etc etc are all change. Whilst it can be a lovely little change and jaunt from reality – it can knock your coping strategies and habits out of whack. So don’t be hard on yourself if things get a little tough.
You’re an incredible little bean – and that means you should love yourself, warts and all. You don’t have to nail calmness 24/7 just because you paid for the privilege.
Once you accept and acknowledge that these thoughts exist – they begin to lose their power. Fear is what fuels them. Easier said than done I know – but take away the judgement, the urge to block it all out, the desperation to not think. Do this, and you’re taking away the negative energy that drives anxiety.
I just feel off because my brain is working overtime. Just let it be. Acknowledge its presence. It thinks it has a function. It will pass.
Now this is not the magical cure for everyone. And it won’t always work. But the amount of times I’ve felt my anxiety creeping in whilst I’m trying to switch off, and I’ve self soothed by just accepting what’s going on – is enough to make me persevere with this strategy. It’s mindfulness.
Whilst practice makes perfect, less energy is needed to be patient and gentle with yourself than to fight with yourself.
Be kind to your mind – you’re on holiday after all.