Passport to anxiety

A holiday should inspire rest and relaxation, alleviating feelings of stress. So why does it sometimes feel like the opposite?

According to a survey of 1,000 UK workers by the Institute of Leadership and Management (external link), 73% of respondents feel more stressed by the prospect of an upcoming holiday, and 18% of respondents come back from holidays more stressed than when they left. Given the recent publicity over cancellation of British Airways flights due to strike action and the failure of Thomas Cook, is it really so surprising?

Holidays can actually disrupt sleeping patterns according to supplement company Healthspan. It surveyed 2,000 (external link) people and found that it takes at least three days to return to a normal sleep pattern after a holiday, increasing to four days after a two-week break. With four in 10 admitting to feeling anxious before returning to work, perhaps a break from the normal routine is something to be avoided?

Holidays are a state of mind

When preparing for a holiday, most people will focus on packing sun cream, flip flops and their passport, but how can you prepare yourself mentally before you head off? Arguably, a holiday is as much a state of mind as it is a location.

Sam Newman, Regional Manager and Head of Broker Marketing at Hiscox, explains why it’s important to disconnect from work when you’re on holiday: “Some people find it difficult to switch off and will still answer calls and emails,” she says. “I firmly believe that you should be fully on holiday and turn your brain off. Spend time with your family, think about non-work things and recharge. We need to get away from an always-on culture.”

For anyone unable to extricate themselves from the office, Sam advises that they ask themselves one simple question: “If I do not answer emails for the next two weeks, will the business grind to a halt without me?” She believes that there are relatively few people who are that indispensable to a business, and more people need to switch off and invest time in their friends and families.

“If I don’t answer emails for two weeks and take phone calls, the world isn’t going to come to an end. My ‘out of office’ is on, redirecting them and there will be people in the office who can help pick up the slack, as I do for them when they’re away”.

But preparation is key

As important as achieving a holiday state of mind is, there are circumstances in which things can go wrong. Falling ill, missing travel connections, losing suitcases and hire car problems may not be at the top of a holiday maker’s itinerary, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be prepared for the worst.

“Anybody travelling should have travel insurance that at the very least covers them for medical expenses,” says Sam. “The really critical thing that everybody needs to think about when going away is all that morbid stuff ­– serious illness, death, disablement – as it can end up being very expensive and distressing for you and your family if you’re not sufficiently protected.”

  • (external link) quotes some alarming costs should disaster strike overseas. For example, it could set an unlucky tourist back £100,000 to have a stomach bug or infection treated in a US hospital with return flights, while a moped accident in Greece could set them back £25,000 for surgery and repatriation to the UK. It’s therefore crucial that holiday makers shop around for the best deals, as the cheapest policy may not provide adequate cover.
  • Given the recent British Airways strikes and Thomas Cook problems, it may also be worth checking that these are covered by your policy – some holidaymakers have found, to their cost, that they aren’t.
  • Sam also suggests checking that the insurance policy covers any pre-existing medical conditions as well as any activities or sports being considered, say a relaxing session of bungee jumping, scuba-diving or quad biking. It’s also useful to remember that cruises generally require additional cover due to the difficulty in getting travellers to hospital for treatment.

By combining the right state of mind with the right travel insurance policy, holiday makers should be able to enjoy their time away, returning to the workplace refreshed and relaxed…until they check their emails.