Muriel Cooper
Psychologist in Mornington

Stress, anxiety and depression

 
Worried woman

Many of us are so used to being on a treadmill year that it's often hard to get off, even during a supposedly relaxing holiday.

You've had a couple of weeks off and yet you still feel uptight/wound up. You dread the thought of returning to work and when you get there you feel like you've never been away. You feel:

  • Unhappy
  • Anxious
  • Moody (irritable, angry)
  • Overwhelmed
  • Just want it all to go away and stay in bed

If this is you, you might want to re-think your whole life - seriously. This kind of stress can be due to recent life events and if they rate highly enough, you could be at significant risk of having a health breakdown (according to the Holmes-Rahe Life Stress Inventory).

You might think you don't deserve to be stressed since nothing major is happening to you (like a death in the family for example) but that doesn't mean you aren't still significantly stressed.

In our complex society a lifetime of striving to be successful, financially comfortable and socially acceptable (or even merely survive) can take an enormous toll on the mind, brain and body.

Holidays are supposed to be a remedy or a buffer against the stress of living and sometimes they are. Often though, holidays are spent trying to relax and not succeeding.

Often our mind and brain is not present and enjoying the holiday, but rather thinking and feeling about the unpleasant prospect of being back on the treadmill. Also there might be financial stress (perhaps self-employed people worry about not earning while on holiday and there is also the cost of the holiday itself).

So how can we maximise our holiday and perhaps even extend these benefits to the rest of the year?

  • Start preparing for your holiday at least a week before you go (get everything done at least three days before you leave and for those three days take time to leisurely pack and do some relaxing activities like going to the pool.
    Nothing last minute is the key
  • Don't over-spend on your holiday. Do your research, get the best bang for your buck and make sure you have a bit up your sleeve to splurge.
    No financial stress is the key (or as little as possible)
  • Use mental discipline to prevent your brain from wanting you to stress about work while you are away. Be self-assertive and firmly reject thoughts of work or other future cares. Resist drifting off into the past or the future and when you notice that are doing it, firmly bring yourself back into the present and focus on what is happening NOW.
    Be present is the key
  • Use your holiday time to plan and reflect on how you can manage your stress more successfully when you return and throughout the year. Your plan could include meditation and relaxation, joining a group or doing a physical or creative activity or any number of other things.
    Planning stress management is the key
  • Do NOT allow communications from work or other sources of stress to invade your holiday time. Just because we have email and text messages now does not give your work the right to intrude on your holiday. If you absolutely MUST have communication with work, put boundaries around it and limit it to a short period each day.
    Limiting stressful communications is the key
  • Use these principles to lower your stress during the year. Be vigilant and do not allow your stress levels to get to unmanageable levels. Sometimes this means consulting your doctor or a psychologist. Having a stress breakdown is destructive and frightening. It is also very hard to recover from. Do not let this happen to you.
    Being vigilant and managing stress all year round is the key

In my opinion, stress management is the key to mental health, whether on holidays or throughout the year.

Find my other articles on stress here.

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