When you work full-time, going on vacation doesn't just mean getting a chance to sightsee or spend time with family; it also means getting a much-needed escape from the daily grind. By snagging a break from the office, you'll have an opportunity to unwind, decompress, and, ideally, return to your job feeling refreshed and ready to tackle whatever tasks lie ahead.
There's just one problem: For many workers, the idea of taking a vacation itself is stressful. In fact, 79% of employees say that they're the most stressed right before a vacation, according to a survey by project management software provider Wrike.
Unfortunately, pre-vacation stress can all too easily lead to stress during vacation. In fact, a recent survey by the American Psychological Association found that 21% of U.S. adults felt stressed during their time off, and that 28% wound up working more than anticipated while on vacation.
If the idea of taking time off is stressful to you, it pays to get ahead of the problem before it ruins your vacation. Here are a few things you can do to avoid stress leading up to planned time off.
1. Plan your vacations strategically
It's natural to feel stressed right before a vacation when you know you're leaving the office for days during one of your busiest periods of the year. That's why it pays to time your vacations to coincide with slower periods at work. Granted, that may be a challenge if you have school-aged children and need to work around their academic calendar, but if that's not the case, figure out when your absence from work is least likely to cause an impact, and schedule your time off then. And if you're not sure, ask your manager to weigh in.
2. Map out your must-do pre-vacation tasks well in advance
The more on top of your work you are leading up to your vacation, the less anxious you're apt to be about getting away. About four to six weeks ahead your vacation, look at your calendar, see what projects are due immediately before or after your scheduled time off, and draw up a schedule that allows you to tackle them beforehand. You might have to work late on occasion to ensure that everything gets done, but if you give yourself that much time to plan everyone out, you won't necessarily find yourself working like crazy the week before your big trip.
3. Ask for support
It's hard to escape the office knowing that no matter how much you prepare in advance, there will still be work piling up while you're gone, not to mention incoming emails and voice mails. The solution? Enlist your colleagues' help. Ask one person to check your inbox and reply to urgent messages on your behalf so that you don't have to do so while you're away. Meanwhile, request that another colleague check and respond to voice mails, and have a third tackle incoming assignments that are timely in nature, but aren't necessarily time-consuming, so that you're not compelled to bust out your laptop when you're supposed to be relaxing.
Many people who take vacation choose not to ask for help because they don't want to burden their co-workers. But as long as you're willing to return the favor, you might as well get that relief.
Stressing out to an unhealthy degree in the weeks leading up to a vacation could negate many of the benefits of that trip. So don't let that happen. A little strategic planning on your part could spare you that anxiety so that the only thing you need to worry about is packing your suitcase.