Rested, relaxed and energized. That's how we want to return from vacation, but it's often not the case. So what can we do to get the best return on our investment of time, energy and finances a vacation requires?
Researchers Shawn Achor and Michelle Gielan offer suggestions in “When a Vacation Reduces Stress — And When It Doesn’t” published in Harvard Business Review.
The overarching finding was that taking time off from work can make you happier, healthier, and more productive when you return, but only specific kinds of travel produce these results.
They found that a person’s happiness gained from a time away from the job is dependent upon the stress level of a trip.
Poorly planned and stressful vacations eliminate the positive benefit of time away. The less the stress, the more likely you will experience a positive benefit from the time off. A positive, well-managed vacation can make you happier and less stressed, and you can return with more energy at work and with more meaning in your life.
Suggestions from this HBR article on how to reduce stress on your next vacation:
1. Hit the Road.
Get away from daily routines, responsibilities and the usual frenetic pace of life. In Achor and Gielan’s study, 94 percent of respondents found traveling on vacation more meaningful than a “staycation.” A Twitter study found that happiness levels increased in proportion to the distance from one's home.
2. Plan ahead.
Never leave vacations to chance. Thorough preparation will make your time off more productive and enjoyable, and pave the way for positive memories. Achor and Gielan found that 90 percent of people who enjoy positive trips plan the details more than a month in advance.
3. Ask a local.
If you are traveling to an unfamiliar place, connect with someone in the know. Locals know the sites and best restaurants, and can steer you away from potential trouble.
4. Leave the office behind.
Unplug, disconnect, and put your work in God’s hands. For more on this, see Take a Vacation That's Really a Vacation by Bill Peel.