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Have a holiday at home
By Christina Larmer
The Sunday Telegraph (Australia)

January 11, 2009

On holidays we tend to eat, sleep and play better. So why not aim to do those things every day?

For most of us, spending time at a luxurious day spa is a rare treat usually reserved for special occasions and holidays, but not for Suellen Donnelly.

The Mullumbimby psychologist and single mum has an annual membership to the Byron at Byron Spa and Wellness Centre, where she gets to enjoy yoga, massages and free rein of the pool and spa facilities all year round.

It sounds heavenly, but for Donnelly, it’s about valuing herself every single day.

“I joined the spa as it made financial and practical sense when I moved into a house right across the road,” she says.

“Earlier this year, when life was overwhelming, the spa became my therapeutic retreat. When life demands were too much, my time by the pool and wandering around the lily ponds was my solace and nurturing.

"I feel valued when I go there, and acknowledge this is also about me valuing me. It is still a juggle to keep up regular visits, but every time I go I think, ‘Why don’t I come here more often?’”

You may have asked yourself the same question when you finally booked in for a massage, found time for that walk or headed off on holiday.

We know how wonderful these things make us feel – numerous studies show that regular holidays are as crucial to our health as good nutrition and exercise – we’re just not very good at making the time.

Not only has leisure time shrunk (a third of us now regularly work unsociable hours and/or on weekends), a recent national survey found that the current economic climate is forcing many of us to forgo holidays completely.

“I think it’s got a lot to do with de-prioritising our own needs,” says Donnelly.

“We’re still socialised, especially as women, to serve everyone else before ourselves.

"Yet we’re supposed to have one day off a week and eight hours’ sleep a night.

"When that doesn’t happen on a daily basis, that’s when you start depleting your reserves, and by the time you do go on holiday you’re exhausted, and then all the viruses kick in.”

What’s worse, a recent Newspoll survey showed that within a week of returning home, up to 80 per cent of us feel as though we’ve never been away.

The key is to stop investing so much in our annual holidays and start putting a little more into every single day.

1 Clarify your needs
Do you holiday for rest, stimulation or quality time with loved ones?

“Reflect on past holidays,” advises Melbourne-based educational and clinical psychologist, Associate Professor Erica Frydenberg.

Ask yourself, ‘What were the things that I found satisfying? What made me feel good? Was it the extra walk I did every day or the change of scenery?

"And how can I factor some of that into my normal week, whether it’s going for a walk three times a week or planning different meals?’”

Once you know what you get out of holidays, you can start adding a little of it into every day.

2 Restore balance
Many of us binge on R&R on holidays and starve ourselves the rest of the time.

Relaxation requires consistency, argues US health expert Sarah Brewer in Simply Relax: An Illustrated Guide To Slowing Down And Enjoying Life (Ulysses Press).

“As valuable as taking a break from routine can be for short-term stress relief, true relaxation comes only after we have learned to deal with life’s natural flow, and restored the balance between body and mind, while following a few simple rules on the practicalities of living (such as eating healthily, taking gentle exercise and regulating our sleeping),” she writes.

"This way we can begin to remove ourselves from the hectic pace of modern living and make relaxation an integral part of our lives.”

3 Keep it fresh
They say a change is as good as a holiday, and with good reason. “A holiday is about doing something that is different from your normal routine,” Frydenberg says.

“That’s the important element. So if you’re working all day on computers, do something completely different (in your downtime). Really find the contrast.”

Make every day a new day: take a different route to work or find new hobbies.

4 Add more meaning
If your weekends are spent in shopping malls or watching TV, ask yourself, how fulfilling are they really?

The 2008 Australian Happiness Index found that most of us are happiest when we’re having meaningful interactions with loved ones, such as sharing meals together.

“Shopping might make you happy for five minutes, but then you have to work harder to pay it all off,” Donnelly says. “Instead, do something creative that’s meaningful for yourself and others.”

5 Simplify your life
Similarly, researchers from The University of Nottingham have found that it’s the simple things in life - listening to music, a long soak in the bath - that impact most positively on our wellbeing. They are things you can do every day.

Holiday every day
• Invest in a plush white bathrobe - you’ll feel like you’re at a luxury hotel each time you step out of the shower.
• Splurge on exotic fruits, croissants and fresh coffee for a DIY continental breakfast.
• Pour a bubble bath, light some aromatic candles and exhale.
• Dress up and enjoy pre-dinner cocktails, then sit down to a candlelit meal with loved ones.
• Decorate your bedroom with fresh flowers and muted lighting, and pop a chocolate on your pillowslip.

Keep the buzz going
What do you love most about holidays? Here’s how to add a little holiday joy to your life…

Holiday joy: A slower pace
Everyday ploy: Get up 20 minutes earlier each day and enjoy a meditation, breakfast or walk.
“Instead of waking up to the alarm clock and operating on adrenaline all day, have a slow start,” psychologist Suellen Donnelly says. At night, try switching the TV off.

Holiday joy: Delicious food
Everyday ploy: Invest in new cookbooks, try new restaurants and start a dinner party club. Buy foods rich in tryptophan, a protein used to make serotonin, the mood-regulating hormone.

Holiday joy: Leisurely travel
Everyday ploy: Studies show our stress levels are often as high as fighter pilots when we commute, so treat yours as a road trip: allow yourself time and take music or a book.

Holiday joy: Clean rooms
Everyday ploy: Have regular spring cleans, invest in quality bedding and declutter.

Holiday joy: Sleep (and lots of it)
Everyday ploy: Deepen your sleep by listening to relaxing music and sipping milk, honey and cinnamon beforehand.
A Harvard study found it only takes a few weeks of healthy sleep to feel re-energised.

Holiday joy: Sightseeing
Everyday ploy: You don’t need to leave home to be stimulated: decorate your space with holiday mementoes and visit museums, parks and new cafes on weekends.

Holiday joy: Me time
Everyday ploy: Instead of blowing the budget on one holiday, use some of that money to outsource cleaning and babysitting and use that time for rest or pampering.

Holiday joy: Thrill rides
Everyday ploy: Take up rock climbing or surfing and throw more parties. “When we are excited, the hormone adrenaline turns on our alertness,” health expert Sarah Brewer says. “Without that spark, life would lose its colour.”

Holiday joy: Family time
Everyday ploy: Make every Sunday Family Day: go on a picnic and play sport or games.

Holiday joy: More romance
Everyday ploy: Couples could designate a Date Night each week to be alone.

Holiday joy: Getting back to nature
Everyday ploy: Splurge on flowers and make time for walks and picnics.

This Summer Try A Staycation
By Karen Leland
Psychology Today
blog: The Perfect Blend

July 16, 2009

Watching Your budget? Try Taking A Staycation This Summer.

If the soaring prices of gas have got you down, and the desire to simplify has you got you fired up - be it ever so humble there's no place like home. Enter the staycation - a vacation you take in your own home town. This ongoing trend has would be world travelers seeking relaxation and adventure from the comfort of their own couches. For a successful stay at home family vacation try these top tips:

Create a budget: Although you won't have the expenses of leaving home, you will want to consider how much your staycation activities will cost. If you plan on eating out more, spending one or two nights at a local hotel or starting a project that requires investment - plan a budget.

Avoid errand creep: Don't end up doing so many things around the house - replacing the light bulbs, cleaning out the garage, fixing the front door etc. - that you miss taking the time you need to just chill. If you have a few closets you really want to clean out, schedule a specific day and time to do them.

Become a tourist in your own town: You know that old joke about how most New Yorker's have never been to the Statue of Liberty? Buy a guidebook on the area you live in and read through it for things you might like to do. Take a guided tour, helicopter ride, boat trip, see the zoo etc.

Keep friends at bay: Unless you want a major part of your staycation to be visiting with friends, don't over schedule the lunches, dinners and get togethers. You want the space (and freedom) to be spontaneous.

Visit a day spa: Just because you're not staying at a five star resort with a world-class spa, does not mean you can't get scrubbed, rubbed and pampered!

Check out a day spa in your area and set up a treatment or two. If you really want to splurge go for broke and do a full-day package.

Set goals: Think about what you want to accomplish on your staycation. Is there a book you have been dying to read? A whole slew of movies you want to catch up on? Romantic time you want to spend with your spouse? Take the kids to the new exhibit at the zoo? Time to think through your long-term goals? Naps? Whatever objectives you set, let them dictate the organization of your time off.

Block out check in times:
Just as you would with a regular get away vacation, set up specific times when you are going to check in with the office and stick to them. Don't let the proximity of work, lure you away from your stay-at-home holiday.

Do something different:
One of the advantages of a traditional vacation is that it puts you in a different environment, where the opportunity to try something new is greater than usual. There is no reason you can't apply this same idea to your staycation. Check out your local scene for activities that you might not normally do but sound fun.

Do nothing: Never underestimate the value of waking up when you want to and doing whatever you want, whenever you want, all day long. Don't feel like your staycation has to produce any tangible results - it doesn't. Just getting renewed and refreshed is reward enough.

Karen Leland is the bestselling author of six books including Time Management In An Instant: 60 Ways to Make the Most of Your Day and Watercooler Wisdom: How Smart People Prosper in the Face of Conflict, Pressure and Change. She is the co-founder of Sterling Consulting and Marketing Group.

How to Have A Truly Relaxing Staycation Stress Management
by Elizabeth Scott, M.S.

A staycation, a vacation you do at home, can be a wonderful alternative to a long, expensive, painstakingly-planned trip -- the time and money you can save are significant. However, if you don?t take certain precautions, your staycation can be little more than a stressful extension of everything you need a break from. The following staycation strategies can assure that your staycation is truly a relaxing romp rather than a wasted week.

Time Required: However Long You Have

Here's How:

  1. Turn Off The Phone.
    This sounds obvious, but the point of a staycation is to have a vacation, and the point of a vacation is to get away from the demands of your regular life. To truly do so, you need to stop being ?on call,? and set your phone to go straight to voicemail. You can check your messages each night if you want to, and decide who you want to call back, but it may be a good idea to tell everyone you won?t be around for a week, and just take a break. (While you?re at it, why not put your mail on hold and take other precautions you?d take when you go on a traditional vacation?)
  2. And The Computer.
    While many, many people make the mistake of taking work with them when they go on vacation (a strategy that tends to sabotage the relaxing element of a trip), it?s even more important to avoid being available for work when you?re on a staycation. (It may be more tempting to ?check in? at work, and they may feel more entitled to request it of you, which is all the more reason for the computer to stay off.) Even if you?re not planning to work with your computer, do you really think a week of playing World of Warcraft or Weboggle would be as relaxing and memorable as other options you have?
  3. Try Something New
    Staycations mean you can play ?hometown tourist,? and enjoy the fun things that your city (or surrounding areas) have to offer, which you normally might go out of your way to experience. An added benefit of going to the touristy places in your area, is that when you pass by these places after your staycation is over, your fond memories will be triggered and you can relive the fun. You may also be more inclined to do such fun things during the rest of the year when you?re not vacationing, which might provide a nice little escape that can help stave off burnout.
  4. But Don?t Over-Book Yourself
    As you indulge in the fun that your town has to offer, remember to schedule in some ?down time? to read, relax, sleep in, lollygag, and do all the things people really like to do on traditional vacations. The idea of a staycation is to feel like you?ve gotten a break, so be sure you get one. Just balance it out with fun activities, too.
  5. Don?t Be Afraid To Splurge
    Because you?re saving money by staying close to home, you can (and should) eat meals out and splurge in other areas, just like you would on a traditional vacation. If you want to go to brunch, get a massage, go shopping, or even hire a cleaning service to come if you don?t already have one (you?d get maid service in a hotel, right?), you should do so guiltlessly if you can afford to. It contributes to the carefree mindset you?re trying to capture with your staycation. It makes all the difference between a staycation and just a week hanging around the house.
  6. For specific staycation ideas and strategies, see this article on cheap vacations at home.
What You Need:

  • Some time off of work.
  • An open mind.
  • A fun attitude.
More Stress Management How To's

Suggested Reading
What Is A Staycation, Anyway?
Why We Need Vacations
Burnout Symptoms and Causes
Quiz: What's Your Burnout Risk?

I drove to Sedona today with my husband and brother-in-law. It seemed an hour closer than usual since we already had to go to a nearby town.

I got my favorite souvenirs (cactus jelly and a bottle of Arizona wine), but what I liked most was the feeling of transcendence when my senses were overwhelmed with the depth of the canyons.