Staring at your skin every morning can be one of the most stressful things you can do each day. Although it may not strike you as the same type of corporate or professional stress you experience at your job, you may almost definitely experience physiological stress triggered when you look at skin you’re not happy with.

It’s easy for stressors to compound this way – first you start the day with physiological stress, then you experience environmental stress at your high powered job, not to mention the stress of doing 100,000 things at once at your job, then possibly overlay that with relationship stress, financial stress or emotional stress particularly if you can’t find any time to yourself whatsoever (shout out to the Mum’s out there who know having a shower is a luxury 2 minutes to yourselves).

As I used to say to men I may have done the fandangled dance between the pants with in my early 20’s after a big night; here are your jeans, and get out.

Now the same advice goes to you. Get out. Get away from the space that is causing you stress. Leave town for a little while. I’m not saying that the best way to deal with a stressful situation is to run – quite the contrary, you’re better to fight fire with fire. However, your stressful situation will (most likely) still be there when you get back. In the meantime, it’s important you plan to invest in yourself to determine how to take mini (or longer) breaks to help your mental state and wellbeing.

Can taking a holiday help your health?

Taking a break, can be a great investment in you, and your health to help you overcome health problems or help you give that extra mental ‘boost’ you need according to research published in Psychology Today:

  • In a 2009 study, Canadian researchers Joudrey and Wallace reported that “active” leisure pursuits (such as golf!) and taking vacations helped to buffer or ameliorate the job stress among a sample of almost 900 lawyers.
  • British researcher Scott McCabe noted that vacations’ “personal benefits have been found to include: rest and recuperation from work; provision of new experiences leading to a broadening of horizons and the opportunity for learning and intercultural communication; promotion of peace andunderstanding; personal and social development; visiting friends and relatives; religious pilgrimage and health; and, subjective wellbeing” (p. 667). McCabe believes these positive benefits to be so strong that he recommends that families be given some form of financial assistance if they are unable to afford vacations on their own.
  • The benefits of vacations extend to family relationships. An international group of researchers led by Purdue University Xinran Lehto concluded that family vacations contribute positively to family bonding, communication and solidarity. Vacations promote what is called the “crescive bond” (in sociological parlance, a “shared experience”) by fostering growing and enduring connections. Shared familymemories and time spent together isolated from ordinary everyday activities (school, work, and so on) help to promote these positive ties. Though family vacations can have their own share of stress, the benefits outweigh the risks, even in families that are not particularly close, according to Lehto and co-authors.
  • Although they can sometimes be stressful, a comedy of errors or you might feel like you’re being fleeced sometimes, I can almost guarantee you will have so many belly laughs on your trip to outweigh some of the day to day travel dramas you may incur. The belly laughter helps to stimulate nitric oxide release in our bodies, triggering our happy hormones like endorphins and dopamine that help us to stay healthy and happy according to researchers at the University of Maryland.

What happens when you DON’T take mini-breaks or holidays…

So what are the side effects, of not taking a holiday?

  • Data collected in 1991 from a renowned ongoing longitudinal project started in 1948, called the Framingham study, shows that female homemakers who took vacation once every six years or less had nearly twice the risk of developing heart attacks or having a fatal heart problem than those who took time off at least twice a year.
  • Men are affected, too. A 2012 review of 50 years of research published in the American Journal of Epidemiology showed that a ten-hour-or-more workday increased the risk of coronary heart risk by 80%, in both sexes. The researchers reasoned that the correlation may be related in part to health problems associated with longer exposure to psychological stress.
  • In 2012, drawing on data from another large longterm project called Whitehall II, which collects information about British civil servants, researchers from the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health and elsewhere found that people who worked more than 11 hours a day (compared to those who worked 7-8 hours a day) were more than twice as likely to have a major depressive episode, even in those without previous mental health issues.
  • One 2013 study from Sweden’s Uppsala University found that people who take vacations may boost the mental health of those around them. Using the dispensing of antidepressants as a proxy for levels of depression in the country, the researchers found a small but “practically significant” relationship between more people taking vacation and fewer drugs sold.
  • Not surprisingly, resting the mind outside work can benefit a person’s performance back in the office. A 2012 study by psychologists from University of California, Santa Barbara, and other schools showed that participants who were faced with a problem showed an increase in creative solutions after being allowed to let their minds wander for a short period.

How to holiday like a millionaire, on a beer budget?

At a minimum, try to get at least 2 days, or hopefully 2 weeks if you can wing it of some time off. Some time to give to yourself. And no, I don’t mean 2 weeks on a Contiki bus with tequila shots fist pump jump jump (interpretation: my idea, of pure hell). I mean restorative break.

Yep. I know – you’re screaming at me right now saying um Rebecca, that’s all nice and well but I’m kind of busy working, running my life, studying on the side, trying to go to a million events and social engagements, be amazing, doing everything a human can do between 6am and 11pm (but still feel like I haven’t done anything) and here you are, telling me to um, take time OFF? Yes I am. And here’s how you can do it:

  1. Time

Time is your most precious resource, it’s something you can never make more of, once it’s gone it’s gone. So investing your time into a holiday or mini-break is critically important for your mental and overall wellbeing. If you’re struggling to just ‘find’ time, here are a few things you can look at:

  • The obvious first step is to take annual leave. If you’re short on leave, try to turn 3 or 4 day long weekends into 2 week getaways so you only end up taking 7 days of leave instead of 11.
  • Travelling for work? Tack on a weekend or 4 days at the end of the trip to wind down and relax.
  • Add 1 or two days leave over a long weekend to stretch your week out a bit and take a longer break.
  • Create time.. Ever worked overtime and never had the guts to ask for a day off? Try it!! For the hard yards you’re putting in, why not highlight to your boss how much extra time you’ve put in above and beyond (ESPECIALLY if you’re doing weekend work). Instead of asking for ‘approval’ for a time-in-lieu day maybe try the following script in your next work-in-progress review meeting or catch up

‘So as you know, I’ve put in 3 weekends over the past month, I took a look and in total I’ve contributed over 24 hours to date to help get this project over the line which has helped with the team effort which I’m really proud of.

I think it’s only fair if I take 3 days in lieu to make up some of this time back for the effort contributed and I’m planning to take this on the 26th, 27th and 28th of March (have your dates prepared and in mind). Would this timeframe be ok with you?’

The worst that can happen in this scenario is that your boss says no. Remember contextually, if these are the hours your boss does, they are paid much more than you to do it.

You’re not actually asking for approval with this script, you’re actually asking if the time frame you have allocated is ok, it indicates that by answering that question in and of itself, your boss has intrinsically agreed to already give you your days off.

  1. Travel like a millionaire on a beer budget

You may be able to afford a 5 star luxury spa vacation (in which case, definitely take it), but if you’re like me, you live like a millionaire on a beer budget

  • Find out the non-peak flying times of the airline you want to choose / fly with. I find booking via the call centre really helps as they can tell you which flights are more commonly full and which are empty. I try to almost exclusively choose the emptier flights unless you’re on a flight path that is full most of the time – flights to and from London are usually like this. Checkin online to select your seat and always go to see the back cabin – you will be able to see what rows are spare / empty to give you an idea of rows that might be empty. Ask the attendants if it’s a full flight at the counter or on the plane, you can ask to be allocated to a row of 3 seats all to yourself so you can curl up and sleep. I did this on my last 2 long haul flights and woke up just for meals, see, you can live like you are in business class too, just takes a little effort and negotiating!
  • Last minute deals. There are a few great sites out there that have dirt cheap flights for last minute fliers – checkout I Know The Pilot for a newer approach to quick deals. If you want luxury accommodation on a beer budget, checkout Secret Escapes…I’ve never felt better at 5 star accommodation for the price of a hostel!
  • Get used to Picnics. If your destination is particularly expensive (like Switzerland) meals out are definitely a no-no unless you manage to land a billionaire whilst you’re over there to shout you food (or travelling with work is fantastic for this reason). So that means get used to your local supermarket, it will be your bread and butter (literally). Now I’m not saying don’t go out and don’t enjoy local food, produce and restaurant life, but if you’re on a shoestring, be smart about when you’re eating out. Nothing wrong with going to your local supermarket, stocking up on cans of tuna or the deli options for your breakfast, lunch and dinner. If you have accommodation with a kitchenette, this will make life much easier. Now if you’re going to a cheaper destination like Thailand, obviously it makes more sense to eat out 24/7 as it’ll cost you under $10 a day to do so.
  • Accommodation:
    • AirBNB is obviously becoming an easier, cheaper and more accessible way to stay in a more homely residence, kitchen and all, at your local destination
    • Checkout competing local AirBNB sites when you search for accommodation
    • have great discount offers on all accommodation types
    • If you’re going for a while, why not consider doing a house swap? It will wipe out all of your accommodation fees altogether!
  • Alternative holidays

Now with a getaway, the conventional idea is to get on a plane and go somewhere. But there are other ways you can define a vacation:

  • Retreats: I do this at a minimum once a year. I take a 3 day silent retreat and everything is included. It’s incredibly modest, but the best investment in time mentally and physically. It is under $500 for 3 days. Some retreats let you help out around the retreat instead of paying altogether, so if you’re really really stuck, you can find a retreat that will let you make the beds, help do some cooking in exchange for staying there.
  • Cruising: I’m not a fan at all (I am too monkey minded) but cruising has taken off. If the idea of getting on a plane, working out tube maps, travelling and traipsing from country to country sounds far from relaxing for you, there are so many cruising deals and offers on at the moment promising turquoise waters and all-inclusive food and beverage (the quality I’m not so sure about, but sounds like a no-fuss holiday to me!)
  • No work.

When you’re away, you’re away. Unless you’re a heart or brain surgeon with patients on the table, no one is going to die because you’re not around. The purpose of your break is meant to help you relax and unwind, not remain highly strung whilst you’re away. Stay switched off and make it clear you’re not contactable. Make sure you have a great 21C in place before you leave to take the reins.

  • Do something new / something that scares you:

Prominent neuroscientist and University of California professor ­Michael Merzenich teaches that we need to keep doing and learning new things — breaking out of our comfort zone, out of the box of habit and pattern — for our brains to grow new synapses and regulate our bodies to stay healthy. To this end, travel keeps the brain agile and learning makes us fitter inside and out.

When travelling, I always try to do something new, or at the very least something that scares me. To quote Eleanor Roosevelt — ‘Do one thing every day that scares you.’

This includes travelling. On my recent travels, I spent 4 days kayaking from Genoa to Cinque Terre which I don’t think I ever would have done unless I really searched for something unique. Why not try looking at something you otherwise do in your travels? Maybe it’s a cooking class, a language lesson, a bike tour, a kayak tour, maybe you can air balloon, ski or kite surf to your destination! There are so many opportunities to help you push your boundaries. As always, make sure you do what is within your health boundaries and ensure you have adequate health and travel insurance.

  • Ask questions

As Tony Robbins always says, your life is the result of the questions you ask of yourself. So in essence, you are the end result of the questions you are asking. I treat my holidays as sacred retreat times no matter how busy they are and always have a set of specific, massive and BIG questions I have to ask myself. Being in a completely new environment, away from the day to day grind and the rat race, can help to push yourself to ask and answer questions you otherwise may never have been able to ask nor answer.

My recent trip

I recently spent 3 weeks in Switzerland and Italy on a retreat. Spending 4 days kayaking then 2 days hiking through Italy was an eye opening and amazing experience to help answer questions and probe my thinking to shape the next stages and phases of my life. Here are a few shots of what I got up to…

Hmmm remember what I said about my monkey mind? I’m rock climbing here in the Swiss Alps. Can’t stay still for very long.

Yup the train does run from Genoa to Cinque Terre. But why not kayak it instead? Plus you get to swim in between rocks and caves you can’t access by boat or foot.

Definitely missed my personal trainer on this trip, but stayed fit doing my daily hiking in Cinque Terre! Beautiful hikes and gorgeous scenery.

Who said beer budgeting (or in this case prosecco budgeting) is bad? Prosecco and an antipaster dinner from the local supermarket deli. Under budget and delicious. The view courtesy of the terrace of my Airbnb.

You never know what you’ll get on planes so I made a ‘deconstructed protein ball pack’. A lunchbox of pepita seeds, brazil nuts, walnuts, dates and cacao nibs. I added these into my yoghurts every morning.


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