University of Pretoria: Time to take a breather: UP HR expert on decompressing during the holidays

The summer holiday period is nearly upon us and, after a gruelling year, it is a welcome opportunity for some much-needed rest and relaxation. The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns, compounded by the loss of family members and widespread retrenchments, have resulted in high stress levels for individuals around the world since 2020.

At the start of the pandemic, many thought it would last for two to three months before things returned to normal. Yet despite the roll-out of vaccines, it could continue well into 2022 and beyond.

As a result, people have found themselves in an ongoing stressful situation, managing high workloads with no boundary between work and home, and home-schooling children while simultaneously taking care of household chores, among other stressors. Research indicates that people who have been in lockdown and unable to go to work or interact freely at a social level display symptoms of acute stress disorder and psychological distress.

Individuals have reported feeling detached from others and experiencing trauma-related distress symptoms, high levels of exhaustion (both physical and mental), insomnia, indecisiveness, depression, frustration, irritability, boredom, poor concentration, reluctance to work, anxiety and deteriorating work performance. Some have even considered resigning from their jobs. Isolation has also led to unhealthy eating and a lack of physical activity. All these changes can have a dramatic and long-lasting impact on people’s psychological well-being.

That is why it is vital that you take some time out to rejuvenate during the upcoming summer holidays. With the COVID pandemic still hanging about, many would prefer to avoid travelling and crowds. If you’re planning on keeping things local, here are a few tips on how to destress during the holidays.

Get in some physical activity. If you live in a safe neighbourhood, take long walks with your family every day. Cycling is another good way to get outdoors – the fresh air and sunshine will do all of you good. Another great idea is to let the children camp in the backyard. If you have yard space, invest in a volleyball or badminton set and get the family involved in a game or two.

Start a hobby. Trying out something new is a good way to destress. If it’s a hobby that brings out your creativity, even better, as this allows you to explore different ideas. This will also keep boredom and frustration that you may be experiencing at bay.

Practise mindfulness exercises. Engage in breathing exercises, do yoga or meditate each day for 15 to 20 minutes. Learn to find inner peace and contentment within yourself. Take time off to be silent and enjoy a feeling of nothingness.

Introduce technology-free time. Most of us are far too preoccupied with our phones, tablets and laptops. Try switching off these devices during meal times for at least an hour.

Change your routine. Instead of eating breakfast in the kitchen, make a picnic and eat on the patio. If you have a balcony, enjoy a meal there while taking in the view.

Visit an animal farm. Take young children to a petting zoo or animal farm where they can interact with nature and play with the animals. It is therapeutic not only for them but for you too.

Get back to basics. Teach your children the childhood games that you used to play so that they can learn to find fulfilment and joy in the simple things in life.

Go hiking or fishing. Go for short hikes in your area or visit a dam or river resort that you have never been to before and have a fun-filled day fishing or simply relaxing.

Explore your city. How well do you know your city? Explore the places you have never visited.

Visit a small town and explore the surrounding areas. Learn the history of the town and visit historical sites.

Create a fun new game for the family and try to sustain it during the year.

Catch up on reading if you did not have time to do so during the year.

Potter about at home. Fix all the things you couldn’t get to during the year. The holidays are long enough to get some work done on your home, car or garden.