Are You REALLY on Vacation? 3 Ways to Ensure You Check Out Completely!

Beach, road trips, patio dining, swimsuits, barbeques, family gatherings, blue water, mountains – these are words are often associated with “vacation”. A vacation is a fun time to spend with loved ones, friends or maybe just yourself on a solo retreat at home or far away. Whatever the goal, vacation elicits thoughts of taking a break from it all-- unwinding, recharging, and relaxing. But how many of us actually do this and completely check out?  Do you really turn off your device? Not check your email? And by that I mean reallynot check your email (don’t “check in” with the office or convince yourself “I’m just cleaning out my email so it’s not monstrous when I return”)? We as a society are increasingly not “vacationing” the way we should or at least the way we used to. The invention of the smartphone, while incredibly useful has also convinced us that “staying connected” will keep us more organized, more aware, and more successful. Who doesn’t want to be more successful? But at what cost? We have been indoctrinated with the “stay connected” rhetoric to the point that it has become the norm and not the excuse. Personal and work life begin to bleed together.  I hear “I’m on vacation, but I still check email”. Has your family noticed? Are you feeling as recharged as you had hoped when you return from your vacation?

Vacation has several meanings, but the benefits are usually the same-- rest, reduction of stress, broadened perspective, increased happiness, and even improved creativity upon returning to work. Reduce stress and you reduce internal inflammation. Inflammation increases weight gain, fat storage, impedes cellular function, and often results in various types of pain. Does your skin glow after a vacation? Maybe it’s because you destressed and reduced some of the toxic load in your body.

Many are realizing the creative benefits of a real “break” such as one CEO who builds in time for creative thought and connection with family in lieu of the daily to dos, the meetings, the onslaught of social media posts, strategic planning and customer analyses.

A break from anything – your work, your spouse, your kids – allows you the time reconnect to your goals and actually enjoy your family more. Everyone forgets how much a vacation allows for a refreshed focused perspective on one’s current situation—until they actually go on one.

I had a boss once that did not answer any emails on vacation. This provided two lessons: First, I became more self-sufficient and resourceful while he was away. Second, I respected his time and him more for his ability to focus on the present when at work and at home/vacation. In the corporate world, I found that if I replied to one email on vacation, it opened the door for colleagues to expect further replies, work etc.  

Here are three quick ways to fully check out and rest:
  1. Adhere to your out-of-office. Notify co-workers, friends, volunteer committees and anyone who normally demands your time that you are taking a real vacation to focus on yourself, your travel companions, and being in the present to return more recharged. When at work, managers and coworkers want you in the present, and so the same should be respected of you while on vacation. Business owners using a Gmail account should still use their out-of-office. Managing expectations creates more respect than a lack of response.
  2. Turn off your email notifications on your phone. It won’t be tempting to look if you aren’t pinged every hour. If you must look, do so at designated times – first thing in the morning or the evening-- but don’t let those times interfere with your plan for the day. Look and move on. It’s not vacation if you are thinking about that last email reply while climbing the stairs of a cathedral tower, or about to play in the waves.
  3. Use your phone only for navigation or researching local fun spots. Put away the phone. Remember who is around you. You can post those pictures to Facebook when you return. It will serve as an opportunity to remind yourself about the fun you had.

Have you considered a detox? Think of a vacation as a detox for the mind and body. For more advice on corporate wellness balance, check out my corporate wellness services