People talk about holidays as being a well-earned break and a chance to relax. Adverts in particular portray the idyllic life, popping out for day trips or jetting somewhere hot (or hotter) for a fortnight of uninterrupted bliss. TV programmes tend to do the same. Netflix box sets of people just enjoying the high life (aside from the astronomical dramas their lives present them with). Everyone seems to be working on their tan, loving the time spent with friends and family and generally in a state of bliss.
But what if your holidays are not like this? Actually, holidays rate fairly highly on the stressful events scale. If you’re a parent they often involve juggling work or other usual commitments to be available for your children when they are not in childcare. For children and young people, it involves a significant change in your social situation, spending more time with parents and siblings or other family, less time with friends at school. And all of these things involve a change from usual routines and structures put in place to manage everyday life. Children and young people may have to get used to being cared for by someone else (e.g. a holiday playscheme or new childminder) or looking after themselves (e.g. getting their own lunch whilst a parent is out or getting a train somewhere they don’t usually travel to). That’s quite a lot to get your head around.
If you then add into this going away, leaving your home and place of security, where things are familiar and you know where you are. Even leaving for a holiday in the same country involves travel, a new place to sleep, different activities and food and almost always changes to routine (e.g. staying up later, not going to the same place every day, speaking to new or different people that you would normally interact with). And going abroad means new currencies, new food and often air travel with all the security and baggage complications that adds.
It’s no wonder that some people find holidays stressful. Perhaps they make your anxiety worse. Worrying about whether you’ll make it to your destination on time and whether you’ve pack the right things or whether you should see this set of friends over the holidays and what they’ll think if you don’t contact them. Then there is the worry about worry – which just gets us in even more of a pickle. Or perhaps you just notice yourself feeling very down or low and not enjoying the things you wanted to. We can also end up chastising ourselves for not enjoying the holiday more or for worrying when we should be having fun or for feeling down when we are supposed to be relaxed and happy.
If this is you, then know that you are not alone. Not everyone loves holidays. Not all the adverts portray real life. Family are still annoying sometimes on holiday. You still get tired and stressed on holiday sometimes. The juggle of childcare and other activities is difficult and holidays sometimes make this much harder. Be kind to yourself – you are not being difficult or unreasonable. You are being human and realistic.
But don’t lose heart. It is possible to find some glimmers in there which make things feel a bit better. This is possible everywhere, every day, even if they day was difficult. See next week’s blog for some thoughts about this. Also, as I always say – don’t forget to breathe. Savour the moment when you wake up and realise you don’t have to rush out of the house. Take a little bit of home with you when you go away and look at it when you’re struggling. Don’t feel bad about retreating with a book or your phone for half an hour of down-time when things get to much. Get daylight and sunshine and fresh air whenever you can (you’ll be glad you did when the winter comes around). It may not be sun-filled bliss, but you can do this. Find things that help and find ways to give yourself a break. And as ever, be kind. Compassion for yourself and for others who may also not being finding everything is as rosy as the brochure said goes a long way.