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Regular holidays don't just help you to relax mentally. One study has shown that they can also reduce blood pressure, improve sleep quality and may even help you to live longer.
With 56% of Singaporean employers admitting that stress was a big issue for their workers, and 52% of Singaporeans stating their stress levels went up over just a short 6-month period, it's more important than ever to make the most of your holiday time – and to maximise the health benefits as you ease back into work.
A 2013 study researched the impact of holidays on our health. For participants who took a holiday, blood pressure dropped by an average of 6%, sleep quality improved by 17% and the ability to cope with stress improved by 29%. In contrast, for the participants who didn't take a holiday, the ability to cope with stress reduced by 71%.
So, now that you know you're justified in booking that trip you've been dreaming of, or at least taking that much-needed week off work, how can you maximise the health benefits during and after your holiday time?
1. Practise mindfulness
Find it difficult to switch off from work, even when you're technically not supposed to be worrying about it all? Meditation has a whole host of health benefits, and when you're on holiday, it shouldn't be difficult to find the time to fit it in. Meditating for just 10 minutes each day is thought to help lower blood pressure, enhance your mood and even improve your digestive system. It is also thought to reduce depression and decrease anxiety, as well as boost your memory and communication skills – useful additions for when you do ease yourself back into work.
Find a quiet spot to sit down and close your eyes, relax your muscles and focus on breathing naturally. If you struggle to clear your mind, think of one word or phrase that makes you feel calm and repeat it to yourself in your head.
2. Stay active
Exercise is beneficial for both physical and mental health – but it's quite possibly the last thing you want to be doing when you're on holiday!
Instead of forcing yourself to get to the hotel gym or local fitness centre, go for a walk, cycle or outdoor swim. Why? Because being outside exposes you to sunlight, which means your body can soak up plenty of vitamin D. Not only does this vitamin promote healthy bones, it is also thought to help reduce your blood pressure, the risk of diabetes and chances of a heart attack.
Best of all, vitamin D is also thought to boost your mood. Studies show that being outside on bright, sunny days boosts the amount of serotonin in your body – the hormone that makes you feel happy, calm and satisfied. Just make sure to wear plenty of sunscreen to protect your skin from harmful UV rays.
3. Switch off from technology
You are bound to feel more stressed if you keep checking your work emails while you're on holiday – especially if your inbox is stacking up. The fact is, workers who feel the pressure to check their emails when they are out of the office are also more likely to experience burnout and, eventually, to take more health-related time off from work.
Not only that, but research suggests switching off social media can be good for you, too. Just a week of quitting Facebook has been found to benefit people's mental health.
Setting an 'out of office' message and switching off your smartphone is just one way to immerse yourself fully in your holiday experience and reap the health rewards.
4. Treat yourself to a massage
Massages are thought to help promote relaxation, and more specifically, to help reduce stress, anxiety and pain. And if you can't indulge yourself on holiday, when can you?
If you have a specific condition or concern, consult your doctor first. They will be able to recommend the ideal treatment for you.
5. Rest well
If you've flown abroad for the holidays, jet lag can really impact your sleep schedule. When you eventually head back to work, it can also make it more difficult to get back in the swing of things.
To minimise the impact of jet lag on your body, start adjusting to each new time zone early. Stay hydrated, and avoid drinking too much coffee or alcohol. Most importantly, practise healthy sleeping habits while you're away. A good night's sleep can improve concentration and productivity, boost your immune system and reduce depression – all of which will make you feel better when you do get back to the office.
If you know you find it difficult to drift off during the holidays, consult your doctor about natural sleep remedies. Certain herbal extracts, essential oils and foods may help you relax.
You may feel a bit sad when a holiday comes to an end, or stressed when you realise how much you need to do when you get back to work.
Here are a few final tips to help you ease your transition back into the workplace: