How many times do you look forward to your holiday only to find more problems and stressful situations away than you left behind at home?

A senior executive client of mine was leaving the UK with his wife and baby daughter for a week's holiday break in Spain. After one hour sitting in the plane, on the tarmac, they were told it had an electrical fault and they would be unable to fly that night, but would have to stay overnight at an airport hotel. They were collected at 5am the next day by an airport bus which promptly broke down and they were forced to walk a mile to the airport with luggage and children! They were then too late and the plane left without them.

They eventually had to change airports and 24 hours later, after losing a day's holiday, they finally arrived at their destination — stressed-out, angry and just wanting to sleep.


Now, we all know of stories like this one and it does make me wonder whether it is worth all the effort when instead of relaxation we get aggravation.

Every year, thousands of people set out on their annual summer holiday. This precious time is regarded as a chance to ‘recharge their batteries', to forget about the office, and to just eat, relax and maybe swim. In Europe, many companies close down for these two weeks to ensure that all their employees get a proper break and a chance to chill out.

Sadly, in recessionary Britain today, many choose not to take their full entitlement of annual leave and make do with short breaks whilst still keeping in contact with the office. The fear of redundancy and employment is very real and many are apprehensive that if they are away from the office for too long, they may be replaced.

The advent of short-term contracts and the move towards self-employed status does sometimes make it more difficult for individuals to take an annual holiday — which increases the likelihood of stress-related problems — some unfortunately serious, occurring both within organisations and in individuals themselves.

Stress can be contagious and just one individual who refuses to acknowledge that he/she urgently needs a break, can cause disruption in an otherwise healthy organisation, that can lead to commercial damage.

To perform effectively, we all need to take a break from work that will allow our bodies and minds to keep strong and vital for the rest of the year.

Remember, even your car will break down if you don't change the oil and replenish the coolant water. So make sure you treat your body at least as well as your car — you can always get a new Mercedes or Toyota, but a new human body is not an option.

So, what constitutes a really good stress-busting holiday? Well, it is certainly not a long weekend away with your cellphone switched on and computer online to the office. To really relax, there are certain imperatives to ensure you return to work refreshed.

  1. Choose a holiday that is not going to put you and your family under undue pressure — a 14-hour, non-stop drive is not really a good idea if you have small children.
  2. Plan your trip well in advance. Pre-book seats on trains, boats and planes where possible.
  3. If you are driving, research your route and make sure your vehicle is fit to undertake the journey. Allow for plenty of comfort stops.
  4. Think carefully before planning a holiday with friends. A day out with them may be fine, but do you really want to spend two weeks together?
  5. Do not set an ambitious itinerary. Allow yourself time to just relax and read a book, sit on the beach or just generally chill out. Give yourself permission to just sit and let the clouds roll by if that is really what you fancy doing.

With a few tried and tested tips, you should hopefully have a holiday to remember.

The author is a BBC guestbroadcaster and Motivational Speaker. She is CEO of an international stress management and employee wellbeing consultancy based in London. Contact them for proven stress strategies –