work/vacation cycle
May 10, 2011 7:30 AM   Subscribe

How can I improve my work/vacation cycle?

I spend a lot of mental energy while at work 'counting down' to my next vacation. As the actual date nears, I am often high-strung and unhappy: having looked forward to the trip for months, I get stressed out about anything going wrong, feeling cheated of something I had pinned my hopes on. I couldn't say if the vacations themselves are ever really all that great. There are moments of enjoyment. And importantly there have been times when I've felt that my head was clearer coming back. In any case as soon as I get back, I can't help immediately starting the countdown all over again. I think I'm looking for feedback or advice about this mental cycle I've fallen into.
posted by Paquda to Work & Money (15 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
How much vacation do you get? If you can afford it, it might be worthwhile to take shorter vacations more frequently. I find that long weekends are great for clearing out the mind.

About taking vacations specifically, I've shifted my expectations quite a lot in the past few years. Saving up to go somewhere is such a big deal that I always tried to cram as much as possible in to each trip, and I would feel unhappy - guilty, almost - if, say, I had five things planned but only got to four of them.

Nowadays, I'll usually make a list that exceeds the number of days I'll be somewhere as a brainstorming activity and then pick fewer things on the list than the number of days I'm gone. So, if I'm on a seven-day trip I might make a list of 15 things to do and actually do five of them. The other days are for relaxing (or recovering from illness/hangover) because I don't get enough time at home to sit in the sun and not worry about things.
posted by backseatpilot at 7:40 AM on May 10, 2011


If I lived in the future I would be unhappy, too.
posted by dgeiser13 at 7:41 AM on May 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


Something that a former boss suggested to me that I like to do when possible is to have an extra day off work at the end of your vacation to sort of bring yourself back slowly to your normal life. So if you're traveling to get home on Sunday, take Monday off too.
posted by ghharr at 8:08 AM on May 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Make your day job better so you look forward to work?

An article by Paul Graham (programmer, inventor of the spam filter) talks about how to do what you love. This might or might not help you depending on the industry you're in.
posted by sninctown at 8:10 AM on May 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


If you can't change your job, take some staycations. Don't make the point of your vacation the destination, but make it instead about the time away from work. That might break your mental cycle. Learn how to relax. And yeah, take some long weekends. Try to spread out your time off.
posted by clone boulevard at 8:18 AM on May 10, 2011


re vacations: I've refocussed my vacations to be relaxing while doing interesting things. Instead of an itinerary where I have to get a million things done every day, I come up with a only 1 or two things per day, and time for sitting around and relaxing. I try to take them with friends so we spend time hanging out with each other, and worry about having fun more than getting everything on the list done.

However, the countdown mentality sounds more like you hate your job then you love your vacations.
posted by garlic at 8:21 AM on May 10, 2011


People look down on guided tours and cruises but the one thing they are great for is not needing prep. You can book one, ignore it until the day of, and still do just fine. And if something does go wrong, it's somebody else's problem.

I like to travel independently but you do spend the time before the trip worrying about where you will stay, and how you will get around, and where to go, etc.
posted by smackfu at 8:52 AM on May 10, 2011


Yea, I want to second smackfu. I went on a tour last year after years of independent travel and had way more fun with alot less stress. But, it could also induce the stress of "how will I get along with my fellow travelers" so maybe that wouldn't help.
posted by cabingirl at 9:01 AM on May 10, 2011


I've found that if I go for months without time off and then have a big holiday coming up I am so exhausted at the beginning that I can't enjoy the run up to it, can't prepare as much as I would like eg read the guidebook or plan the intinerary properly etc - for the first few days I am just physically and mentally exhausted, up to a week actually if it involves jet lag.

So now I make a point of of winding down and destress more regularly, especially after really busy periods at work before I go on my "big" holiday. That could be long weekends, taking a few days off and just pottering about at home, catching up with friends, no pressure to organise lots of stuff or get ready for anything much other than to leave the house to meet up with people.

Also think about things like flight times. You don't want to be at work all day on say Wednesday, get home late, do laundry, pack, clean (because you don't want to come back to chaos) etc until 3am and then leave the house at 6am to get to the airport...perfect recipe for disaster.

I am serious - I almost missed my holiday once. I have done long spells without break, worked flat out before going on holiday to make sure no "crucial" deadlines are missed in my absence. Finished work in the early hrs on Friday night, got up mid morning on Sat to pack and get ready to leave late afternoon and I literally got up, walked out of my bedroom and tripped over my own feet and did my back in. I was on the floor on my hands and knees and crying, crawling to the phone to get my auntie to come over and help me...

I did still go on that holiday but the long haul flight was excruciating and I was getting more and more tired because I couldn't sleep the first few nights because I was in so much pain lying down. It took a good few days for my back to right itself, I had to pass on a lot of the fun stuff I was going to do during that time because things like zip lining and bad back don't go together but there it is. Still a great holiday all in all tho.

So please make sure you get regular breaks throughout the year, a few long weekends can make all the difference, and be realistic about what you can/cannot achieve just before you go and whilst you're on holiday.
posted by koahiatamadl at 9:09 AM on May 10, 2011


Ask yourself: How will I know when I'm having fun? What makes a great vacation? It is a state of mind, rather then a place.
posted by leigh1 at 9:14 AM on May 10, 2011


Do you dislike your job?
posted by rhizome at 9:42 AM on May 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Response by poster: Thank you all for answering. Regarding the advice about trying tours or cruises: the vacations I have been going on have just been about lying on the beach--I guess I'm pretty neurotic for my question to have made such an unambitious vacation seem so fraught. The frustrations that come up are things like: a problem at home keeping me awake the night before I leave, so that I feel the first couple of days of the vacation will be wasted catching up on sleep; an assignment at work not being able to be completely put to bed beforehand, so that I will need to worry about it during the trip; the weather turning out to be rainy; my partner not getting along with me; essentially: this limited time being ruined and wasted.

Do I dislike my job? It's the best I've ever had. I don't think there are better alternatives out there. I feel lucky to be employed, to be making a decent salary, to have moments of satisfaction, and in general to be living a dignified life. Day-to-day my time at work is lonely, anxious, and not spent on pursuits that would of themselves be important to me. The topic of vacations is also about coming to terms with this life and trying to find a way to make the best of it.
posted by Paquda at 10:22 AM on May 10, 2011


I guess I'm pretty neurotic for my question to have made such an unambitious vacation seem so fraught. The frustrations that come up are things like: a problem at home keeping me awake the night before I leave, so that I feel the first couple of days of the vacation will be wasted catching up on sleep; an assignment at work not being able to be completely put to bed beforehand, so that I will need to worry about it during the trip; the weather turning out to be rainy; my partner not getting along with me; essentially: this limited time being ruined and wasted.

A slightly more active type of holiday might actually help you with those things - the activities would help take your mind of things you can't change whilst away and thus shouldn't worry about. You may not be in the same place so if the location doesn't live up to expectations it's not the end of the world. It'd give you and your partner stuff to do together and furnish conversation making it easier to get on with each other. And it'd make a rainy day less of an issue because there is stuff to do other than go to the beach.
posted by koahiatamadl at 4:23 AM on May 11, 2011


may not be in the same place - should be - may not stay in the same place all the time
posted by koahiatamadl at 4:24 AM on May 11, 2011


Response by poster: Thanks, Koahiatamadl. That sounds like a good idea.
posted by Paquda at 6:09 AM on May 12, 2011


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