Life is hectic. And tough. And challenging. Days are busy, demands are great, traffic is just horrid, there is never enough time… you get the picture (and most of you live it every day). Holidays are such precious times: the opportunity to relax, rest, unwind, de-stress, and to manage our time ourselves for a change, is so important today. And yet many people make some critical errors when it comes to planning and enjoying vacation-time. So here are a few thoughts to consider ahead of your next break…

Too busy. Almost all of us feel too busy and too rushed a lot of the time. Don’t make your holidays the same. Planning too much, scheduling unrealistically, cramming in every possible outing and “sight” is a terrible mistake. By all means use your time productively; see the things you really want to see and do the things you really want to do. But be smart and be sensible. Breathe, you’re on holiday!

For the photo… couple walks onto beach… first activity is posing for endless selfies and other photos for social media… before even taking in the view, the fresh air, the sounds and smells of the ocean… Does this sound familiar? I think we all see it and many us do it too. Try to remember that life is for living and that means more than a series of social-media photo-ops (by all means take photos of you living, but don’t live for the photos).

Do what you like. Not what you don’t. Some folks are avid sightseers. Some love art galleries and museums. Others seek nature. Some want adventure and activities. While some folks love lying on the beach, others find it torture. Some love luxurious pampering but others prefer camping. We are all different and what we look for in a holiday varies. The trick is to THINK about it. Which were your favourite recent holidays? Why?

Family. A tricky one. For many of us, holiday-time is the best or even the only time we can see some of our family, so we do. But families can be hard work, complex, and challenging (and more, we know…). We are not suggesting you shun your much-loved family, but perhaps be honest about just how much of your precious time-off you really want to spend with family. There may be a balance to be found.

Lazy. We do think that holidays are times for relaxation. But that does not rule out some healthy active living. Take walks, hike that trail, use your bicycle, try some swimming…there are many ways to be active on holiday, without exhausting yourself. So use (some of the) extra time you have to invest in a bit of active living, please.

Special note: please do not make the mistake of thinking that your too-busy too-rushed life can be fixed by a holiday. It does not work like that. A holiday is a bonus-time but if your life is unbalanced the answer lies in fixing that balance. The fix is a 52-weeks-a-year thing, not a 2-week-holiday thing. Please think about this because it is really important.

If you give holidays a bit of deliberate thought, you may find you can make more of them.

Written by Dr Colin Burns