Holidays are when we can relax and chill, right? That’s the usual expectation. But for many of us it’s far from the reality we experience. Interestingly, holidays are often when people feel most anxious. This holiday unease can also manifest as feelings of disquiet, edginess, agitation, restlessness, inability to relax … For some, it’s so uncomfortable that they would rather be back at work.
So, what’s going on!
This is a very common experience, even amongst those who wouldn’t normally consider themselves prone to anxiety, so you’re not alone and there’s nothing ‘wrong’ with you. It’s related to a very similar situation where people experience their first anxiety attack after a period of stress, not during it.
It seems what’s happening is this … Whilst you are working, especially during very busy or stressful periods, your body is “running on adrenalin” as the saying goes. (Actually, the body is running on a number of stress hormones, including cortisol and norepinephrine.) These are the chemicals that help you keep your focus and energy levels up to deal with whatever work pressures you’re experiencing.
When it’s a fleeting emergency, the levels of these hormones settle back down again – often within about half an hour, though sometimes it can take a few days depending on the person and the intensity of the emergency
When the stress has been going on for some time though, the body just assumes the problem is ongoing and starts to automatically churn out these hormones whether you are actually experiencing stress in the moment or not.
Whilst you are still in the working environment, it doesn’t feel strange to be a bit pumped up by these stress chemicals. You can always relate it to something. “I’ve still got that report to write/staffing problem to solve/thing I need to talk to my boss about/etc. etc.” But when you’re on holiday you’re meant to feel relaxed right? And if you don’t, it feels weird and uncomfortable.
It’s at this moment that you need to make an important decision. When you recognize this is what’s going on, it’s important to give your body time to unwind and normalize rather than cut your holiday short or fill your time being massively busy. Being occupied can help you get over this hump, but taking on stressful new projects won't. It's a valuable time to allow your body to destress, even if initially it feels uncomfortable.
Accepting that this feeling is normal after prolonged stress, that if you give your body the chance it will settle back down again and doing the things that will help that process, will make the transition into actually enjoying your holiday a lot easier.
For some tips on how to assist this process, see also: https://www.anxietyunravelled.com/free-relaxation.html and https://www.anxietyunravelled.com/breathing-techniques-for-anxiety.html