Once again, it’s that time of year when everyone scrolls through images of sunny beaches and longs to be there. However, genuinely disconnecting is not as easy as we may think. Most of us continue to respond to emails, check in on our teams, and obsess over current projects.

Whereas being engaged and passionate about our jobs is great, stretching ourselves thin harms our teams and us. 

Tiredness, stress and burnout jolt our characters, making us irritable and reactive. Stress can also change our voices, according to a recent study. All of which make us more liable to impulsive and often negative behaviours that we regret almost immediately. 

On the other hand, taking time to truly disconnect from our job positively affects our mind and body, which will ultimately help us become better and more effective leaders. 

Why should you disconnect while on holiday?

We are all aware that working long hours and not sleeping enough are not healthy habits. However, knowing that and doing something about it are two very different things. Like many of you, we are also guilty of sometimes falling short when it comes to taking care of ourselves. This is why we take our time off seriously; disconnecting while we’re on holiday allows us to recharge our bodies.

As stress piles on, humans’ mood regulation becomes less effective, creative ability stunted, problem-solving diminished—and the body increasingly moves into survival mode, says Emily Nagoski, a health educator and author of Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle.

In addition, disconnecting from time to time gives our minds the opportunity to rejuvenate and restore. Although it can be difficult to regulate our thoughts, actively switching off work mode and the stress that goes along with it gives our minds the much-needed space to relax and reset.

A break will also boost our productivity, creativity, and problem-solving abilities. According to studies, we become less creative and productive as our working week lengthens. Similarly, spending time in nature, disconnecting from technology, switching up your routine and taking breaks all help you improve these skills.

Do you find it challenging to disconnect?

disconnectingDon’t worry, most of us struggle to disconnect from our work life. Studies show that 82% of people work while on holiday.

Our brains need time to switch off after a stressful work period. Ever felt that you’re just getting into holiday mode when it’s time to pack up and come home? There are practical things we can do to help our minds get into a holiday mood. 

Tip: Just as we check our passports before heading to the airport, we can calm our nerves by convincing ourselves that everything is completed at work (checking off our to-do list is something we often do). This way, we can “persuade” our minds that everything is okay when inevitable work-related thoughts pop up.

Our screen time is another challenging factor to consider if we wish to disconnect while on vacation. Every year, we spend more and more time in front of screens. If you want to return from vacation feeling rejuvenated and refreshed, pushing back on 24/7 online connectivity is a good idea.

Even if we know the negative impacts of social media, tv, and technology, going cold turkey is not easy. Thankfully, there are numerous shades of grey in between the two extremes.

Tip: You can set up your “do not disturb mode” and customise it rather than entirely switching your phone off. For instance, enabling a select few people or apps to contact you but blocking the majority of the unwanted noise can be very effective.

Time to change your priorities 

disconnectingLack of time is one of the most recurrent complaints of most people. So during our holiday, we can switch priorities and fill our time with healthy habits and fulfilling activities. This has the added benefit of helping us disconnect from work, ensuring that we return to it feeling completely refreshed.  

Doing physical activities and eating healthily are great habits that sometimes we just don’t prioritise, so using our holiday period to get on track can be a great way to recharge our energy. 

Spending time with family and friends. This might sound like an obvious one, but use your time off to build and deepen your relationships with the people around you. Our mental health benefits greatly from human connection.

You can also use your holiday time to bring more fulfilment into your life by getting into a state of “flow”.  

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi describes “flow” as the secret to happiness (2004), often experienced as a state of intense clarity and focus.

Use this time to focus on something you love and reap the benefits. 

He describes the state of flow as “…being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.”

The state of flow is what many people called “being in the zone”, and it could be achieved by any activity that stops your thoughts and completely makes you lose track of time. 

Time to stop and reflect

Awareness is always the first step toward change. When we distance ourselves from our routine and stop the hectic rhythm we are all so used to dancing to, we can better identify gaps or negative behaviours. So, our holiday can be an excellent time for pause and reflection. 

Take a hard look at your day-to-day life: What would you change? What can you do better? What would you like to do more of? What would you like to do less of?

The Optimist view…

This year, when you are sitting on the beach and you suddenly feel the urge to check your emails, remember that going on holiday is not only about a change of scene and (hopefully) sunny weather. It’s about disconnecting from your everyday life to ensure that you recharge your body and mind.