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Are holidays good for mental health?

Are holidays good for mental health? Summer is upon us and many of us will be thinking about getting away for a couple of weeks maybe to another country, seeking out new adventures and experience or perhaps exploring the UK visiting the amazing countryside or coast.

I have mixed feelings about going on holiday. On the one hand it can be a great chance to relax, catch up on sleep, get a new perspective on things, have new experiences, try new foods and meet new people. On the other hand I can find it stressful, getting everything ready, the travel, there is a financial burden, spending time with family can be hard work as well as joyful, worrying about my home when I am away, thinking about work and what I will have to go back to. I am noticing this year that the negative associations around holidays are more intense as it has been over two years since I have been away.

Are holidays good for mental health

How can holidays benefit you?

I found an interesting article that you can read here by Dr Lynda Shaw, neuroscientist and psychologist – Why Holidays Are Important For Our Mental Health where she explores the benefits of going on holiday. Below are just some of the benefits of holidays that she explores.

  • Holidays improve our physical health – working without breaks can disrupt our hormone levels which can weaken out immune system.
  • Holiday improve out mental health – Overworking and overstimulating our brains makes our neurons more excitable and alert which leads to trouble sleeping, mood swings, short temperedness, and poor memory, focus and confusion. More serious mental health problems can also occur like depression and anxiety. Holidays do the reverse and help us take time to find solutions to problems and to be relaxed in the moment.
  • Holidays help us consolidate and process memories – rest gives our brains a chance to sort memories out.
  • Holidays help to strengthen our bonds with friends and family
  • Holidays decrease burnout

On the other hand this article Do holidays help or hinder depression? Suggests that holidays can be very stressful, particularly in the week leading up to going way, as there is often a lot to plan and extra things to do as well as a rising workload as you anticipate what will need doing while you are away.

A number of studies have found the start of a holiday is often marred by low mood and a lack of motivation. Ironically, the sudden downshift from everyday stress to doing very little may also be the reason so many of us come down with a bug as soon as we go away. Some research, including a study from Tilburg University, Netherlands, shows our immune system may be adjusting to the drop in stress hormones. Scientists still don’t fully understand how this works, but compare it to quickly changing from fifth to first gear in a car – the body finds it hard to cope with the dramatic shift.

For many being in a different environment can be challenging as can the thought of returning to work and every day life as the holiday ends.

If you are someone like me who can find holidays a bit stressful below are some tips.

  1. Don’t wait until the week before you go to get things ready, if it is a holiday that you have planned well in advance at least a month before make a list of things you need to do, e.g. Check your passport is in date, do you have enough medication is that something you need to order more of, and as time goes on work through your list, don’t leave everything until the last minute.
  2. Think about money and budget for the holiday and make sure you are happy with what you are going to spend.
  3. When you are away try to be in the moment and be mindful of what you are doing. If it would help you keep some sort of routine, even if it is different to the one you have at home. For instance go for a walk or get some exercise every day. Be mindful of not drinking too much and make sure you keep your hydration up and eat some fruit every day.
  4. Plan for when you come back. Give yourself time to decompress, don’t rush back to work the next day. Try not to go back to work on a Monday, give yourself a shorter week.

If you are struggling with going away on holiday or are finding it difficult to prioritize taking a break you might find it useful to speak to a professional. Paul Carter is an Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) practitioner as well as a counsellor, psychotherapist. If you are looking for support, call Paul Carter now to book an appointment or to discuss your issues further. At the moment, Paul is only working online or the telephone due to COVID. To make an appointment please call Paul on 07843 813 537 or fill in the form on the Contact Page, if he doesn’t answer he is probably in a session, please leave him a message and he will call you back as soon as he can.

The government provide a useful website with advice for people who are travelling abroad Travel and mental health

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