Mind Matters: Back from holiday but you need a rest? Join the club

The 69-hour week might be mostly gone but modern life provides plenty of new pressures
Paul Gaffney

I HOPE you had a good summer, that you got some time out of your usual schedule and hopefully even that you got a bit of time away on holiday somewhere.

Maybe it’s the evenings drawing in much more rapidly now, the definite cooler air at night time or the advertisements for back-to-school materials, but any way you look at it the holiday season, and whatever summer we can speak of, is definitely at an end.

If you were lucky enough to get some time away, how was that? Did you come back fresh and refocused, or did you feel like you just needed another holiday? Maybe it’s because I’m getting older, but did holidays seem not much easier in the old days, when it was just a case of packing up the car and heading to the nearest stretch of coastline for a few days?

Nowadays, it’s much more stressful, it seems, and at times you do wonder, is it worth it?

For example, things started to get complicated when I went to book an online parking space at Dublin airport the day before we were due to fly out to Lanzarote, only to find that the airport itself, and all the surrounding car parks and hotel car parks, were sold out.

I’ve heard of no room at the inn, but no room at the airport?

Then there’s the rest of it: having to have your money paid two months before you go, having to stand in lengthy lines for the security checks and, when you get there, having to get up earlier to get a good spot by the pool, trying to remember the wi-fi code and maybe being just a little wary of loud noises, especially where tourists gather, in case it was something sinister.

I have been reading a book since I came back from holiday that makes the point that even if we have had a great holiday, the benefit tends to be fairly short term when we get back to our regular lives. Instead what might help us all is to take some time every day and fit in things that we know we enjoy and can help us unwind, relax or if you prefer activity, undertake something energising and stimulating.

While many of us put in long hours every week in paid and unpaid work, especially if you are caring for your family or a relative, the general working week has changed much, from the days my Uncle Peter worked on the building of the M1 in England when the working week was 68 hours, 8am-8pm each weekday with a “short” Saturday shift from 8am-4pm. But while we may work less, other pressures have emerged in the intervening years, and on bad days it can seem endless.

It might be walking, getting to the gym or gathering with friends, taking a nap in the day, if you can, reading, taking a bit longer over breakfast, making that phone call you keep putting off, taking some time to yourself just for the sake of it.

The key is to try to do something every day if possible that reminds you that there is more to this than just work, that our time on the planet is too short, that you don’t have to wait for once a year to have more of a life.

Make sure you do or else, before you know it, you’ll need a holiday! See Rest: Why you get more done when you work less by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang.

:: Dr Paul Gaffney is a senior clinical psychologist.

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