How to switch off on holidays

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According to research, it takes almost two days (46 hours and 42 minutes to be exact) of unwinding to feel fully relaxed. This length of time is essentially how long it takes our brain to switch completely off. And unless you spend entire weekends relaxing to the maximum, booking regular holidays is paramount to ensure you’re making time to wind down properly.

But everyone recuperates in different ways. For some, the most relaxing place on earth could be a quiet holiday in the sun doing nothing. For others, the only way to clear their minds is by focusing entirely on something else.

So, we’ve rounded up the most relaxing holiday destinations below to suit these destressing preferences that aren’t a far stretch from Australia.

Why is it important to switch off?

In our always-on culture, it’s become increasingly difficult to step away from distractions and rest. Neil Shah, Chief De-Stressing Officer and Founder of The Stress Management Society, likens our addiction to technology as just that…an addiction.

“Most people begin to feel anxious when their phone is out of battery or they don’t have access to online communication. What was once so constant and repetitive has been taken away from us, so when we’re expected to relax on holiday, we find it more stressful than anything. It’s the equivalent of going cold turkey and causes us to feel compromised. We spend our lives looking at our screens at things that have either happened or are yet to happen. We need to relearn how to be present in the moment and realise that the power is in the now.”

Over time, stress accumulation can eat away at our mental and physical health, which means not taking a break can have serious health implications.
The physical symptoms of stress overload include:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Pain in the neck and shoulders from tensing
  • Insomnia and fatigue

The mental health symptoms that arise from too much stress can be:

  • An inability to concentrate or make decisions
  • A constant feeling of anxiousness or worry
  • Depression
  • Feelings of irritability, aggression and defensiveness
  • Low self-esteem

In times of high stress, many people look for quick fixes like alcohol and smoking to alleviate these feelings but enjoying these in excess can make the problems worse.

Maintaining a healthy work-life balance makes you more productive, maintains good wellbeing and gives you the chance to reflect as well as spend quality time with family and friends; this is why it’s so important to go on relaxing holidays as often as you can.

Upon returning, you should feel more energised, recharged and full of life.

How can we relax on holiday?

It may seem like relaxing on holiday must be second nature to us, but stress can overcome our ability to relax. The level of stress we feel isn’t always within our control, but the way we manage and rectify it can be. Understanding how to relax on holiday with a handful of prompts based on common triggers of stress can be incredibly helpful.

While we all unwind in different ways, the act of relaxing always tries to clear the mind and calm the body. When we relax, a few things happen to our body:

  • Our blood flow increases, which boosts our energy levels, concentration and ability to memorise
  • Our heart rate slows down, which reduces our blood pressure making us feel calmer
  • We’re better able to digest food, meaning we get more nutrients, which strengthens our immune system

This means that taking part in anything we personally find calming will induce these physical reactions. But, for some, therein lies an issue.

Neil explains that “technology has become such a big part of our lives we’ve forgotten what we truly enjoy. If you want to relax, but you’re not sure where to start, look at what you follow online and bring those passions into the real world. For instance, if you’re interested in sustainability, instead of reading an article about it walk up the beach and clear the sand of rubbish and plastic. Make real-life actions and spend time getting to know yourself by trying new things.”

Another issue is how long it’s taking us to relax while on holiday. Sometimes it only seems like you’ve had a couple of days before it’s time to return home again. That’s because allocating relaxing solely for vacations isn’t the way we should go about destressing. Getting to a place of complete calm can be much easier when we make a conscious effort to be more present day-to-day. “Actioning daily habits,” Neil says, “like turning off your phone after work will help you to enter the real world quicker when you do decide to go on holiday.

Many people think that switching off will make them miss out on what’s going on in the world when in reality that’s exactly what’s happening in their real life as a result of not being present. The most important thing that will help us relax more quickly and safely when we’re away is by trying to live in the here and now at home. We need to switch off to switch on.”

There are some things you can do before and during your holiday to make sure you can get straight down to being in a zen state as soon as you arrive:

  • Before you leave work, give everyone a detailed handover, making sure there’s no confusion over what needs to be done while you’re away.
  • Spread the responsibilities for the holiday, like buying travel insurance and getting supplies such as suntan lotion. This preparation shouldn’t fall on just one person as this can put added pressure on them.
  • Avoid screen time. Staying online – either through social media, TV shows or games – disturbs your chance to chill out, even if these are the things you use to unwind at home. By using them on holiday, your brain is kept from disassociating home life and holiday life, meaning your brain can’t completely clear.
  • “Focus on your surroundings,” Neil suggests, “forget what we think we need to be doing for others and make sure we’re doing what we want because it makes us feel good and enjoy the moment”.

The best relaxing holiday destinations

After discovering how important switching off is, you’re probably now wondering ‘where can I go to relax?’

Deciding where to relax really depends on your preferences. Considering there’s no one size fits all when it comes to stress management and slowing down, we’ve split our relaxing holiday recommendations into two categories: calm – for those who prefer quiet space to breathe – and active – for those who unwind by doing action-packed activities.

So, here are some relaxing holiday destinations to consider when you next need a well-deserved break.

Calm and quiet

Retreat to Tasmania

While Tasmania is big enough to explore for months, we’d suggest heading to the East Coast or Southern Tasmania for the beaches, ocean vistas and quaint towns. View Retreats offers a range of luxury accommodation and romantic getaways throughout these areas that promise seclusion and quiet.

Find paradise on Samoa

Just five and a half hours away from Sydney you’ll find everything that epitomises paradise. The island of Samoa is covered in waterfalls, lagoons and untouched beaches for you to explore. Bungalows stilted on white sand surrounded by palm trees are dotted around the island welcoming nothing but sunbathing, swimming and swinging in a hammock.

Soak up a Thai spa

Where better to cleanse and heal than the home of the Thai massage. For the people of Thailand, massage is a way of life that’s used as more of an everyday practise to relieve stress than a one-in-a-while treat.

Every year, thousands of Australian travellers travel to Thailand to indulge in some pampering, not only because of the blissful tropical surroundings but luxury spa packages here are usually a third of what you’d pay for the same experience in Oz.

The best areas for spas are Chiang Mai and Koh Samui, where treatments include body wraps, scrubs, reflexology and facilities like hot steam baths and hydrothermal pools.

Stretch out with yoga in Ubud, Bali

The spirituality and the natural beauty of Bali have contributed to Ubud’s rise as a yoga hub. Whatever time of day, you’ll always be able to find a yoga class going on somewhere in this little collection of villages.

Studios overlook the verdant rice fields and jungle that the region is renowned for, with various classes available to suit your style of this calming activity.

Active and action-packed

Rugby coaching in Fiji

If rugby is your game, Think Pacific offers the chance to volunteer coaching rugby in Fiji. During your stay, you’ll lead weekly coaching sessions with locals in some of the most remote parts of the South Pacific Islands.

As Fiji’s national sport, rugby is a way of life here. The passion that Fijians have for the sport is infectious and volunteers often leave this experience feeling inspired, through engaging the community by helping to instigate teamwork, built strong connections and even learn some new skills along the way.

Hiking, kayaking and cycling in New Zealand

New Zealand is a natural playground for adventurous travellers. Whether you’re driving or busing around, there are so many spots across the North and South islands to stop and do a thrill-seeking activity.

The paths, tracks and waters of NZ’s adventure trails will take you to some of the country’s best-loved sights, including Fjords, mountains, forests and lakes. We’d recommend Active Adventures for the best tours that get you off the beaten track.

Discovering the Northern Territory

If you’re yet to explore the rugged landscapes of the outback, head to the Northern Territory to clear your mind amongst boulders, gullies, gorges, waterholes, National Parks and wildlife.

Intrepid Travel offers the chance to get back to nature in this sacred part of Australia with hikes, camping and dining under the stars as part of the itinerary.


TID is an Australian online travel insurance company.


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