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10 Ways to Reduce Vacation Stress so You Can Truly Unwind

10 Ways to Reduce Vacation Stress so You Can Truly Unwind

Going on vacation has been proven to be good for your health. In fact, studies have shown that men who fail to go on vacation at least once a year have a 32 percent higher chance of dying from a heart attack than their vacation-going peers. Despite this, the stress-busting benefits of taking time off can be dramatically reduced if you aren’t careful. Therefore, instead of making your vacation merely a different type of stress, it is wise to follow a few simple steps to ensure you truly get the most out of your downtime.

1. Pick One Main Activity Per Day

Are you the type of person who typically jams as much into each vacation day as possible? This often happens because people feel like they have to see or do everything in a new area, but the truth is that you don’t, nor should you attempt to. Going on a holiday gives you the opportunity to experience new places and culture, but you aren’t going to be able to fully relax and enjoy yourself if you are over-scheduled. Avoid this problem by picking one main activity per day. You may visit fewer tourist hot-spots than usual, but you’re also highly likely to have a lot more fun.

2. Arrange Parking in Advance

Parking can be a nightmare, and it is often very expensive to leave your vehicle at a hotel. However, if your vacation plans involve driving a car, it is necessary to deal with these challenges. The good news is that there are parking services and apps such as Your Parking Space that give you the opportunity to arrange your parking in advance or even while you are on the go. This will provide you with pricing information up front, and it will take a lot of the guesswork out of finding a place to park in a new area.

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3. Unplug from Email and Social Media

It is easy to get sucked into work email or excessive social media posting while you are on vacation, but this is not relaxing in the slightest. Studies indicate that a lot of screen time could make it more difficult for you to fall asleep, and it might even make you more prone to experiencing depression. When you combine this with the simple fact that taking on work stress during your time off makes it feel like less of a vacation, it is easy to understand why some people put their phone away when they go on a holiday.

4. Provide a Buffer Before and After Your Trip

Are you planning to fly out after work or return to the office the morning after a red-eye flight back home? This might seem like the best way to maximize your time, but you are going to pay for it in lost sleep and added stress. Even if you end up with one or two fewer days at your destination, it will be worth it to add some buffer time to both ends of your trip. In other words, leave the next morning instead, and come back a day early so that you can get back into the groove of your daily life before starting work again. As an added bonus, taking this approach will help you minimize the feelings of stress that are associated with getting ready and transitioning far too quickly. This is especially critical if you will be changing time zones.

5. Choose a Staycation Instead

Are you looking for a way to enjoy a long weekend or even a week without spending a lot of money? Ditch the financial stress and the complications associated with traveling by planning a staycation instead! You will be in the comfort of familiar surroundings, but you will also be able to give yourself permission to let the housework slide for a few days and explore some new places within your local area. You can save even more money by choosing cheap or free activities such as going to a nearby national park or a free music event.

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6. Vacation Alone or in a Group of Two

Vacationing as a family or with friends always sounds like a great idea, but the reality is that this often leads to disagreements and a lot of compromising. To avoid these stressors, go on a vacation by yourself or with just one other person who has similar interests and holiday goals. When you don’t have to coordinate everything with multiple people, it will naturally become much easier to relax, set a slower pace and cross off your major must-sees during your trip. Another nice perk of solo travel is that you can focus more on mindfulness, which has been proven to reduce the stress hormone.

7. Consider Public Transportation

If you don’t need to have a car with you to get around the local area, it can be very stress relieving to rely on public transportation instead. Of course, your destination needs to have a robust and reliable public transportation system for this to work, so be sure to do some research before you make any definitive decisions. Some places offer discount packages for travelers who will be regularly taking a train or bus for a few days, which could be a good way to save some money. You can also help the environment by choosing public transportation. In fact, subways reduce greenhouse gas emissions by a whopping 76 percent when compared to a standard passenger vehicle.

8. Choose a Relaxing Destination

Every destination has the potential to be relaxing if it allows you to indulge in your passions, but it is much less stress inducing to go somewhere with a laid back vibe. This is the primary reason that beach towns and resorts are so popular, and you can get even better results by going the week before the peak season begins. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t visit some of the biggest cities on earth if they are on your bucket list, but it does mean you should also prioritize fitting in a more relaxing destination for some of your trips.

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9. Pack Everything in Advance

Some people find themselves still packing a few minutes before heading to the airport, and this is going to cause you to deal with a lot of unnecessary stress. Do yourself a favor and make sure that everything except for a few smaller items such as your toothbrush are packed by the day before you leave. This is also good advice to follow when it is time to return from vacation. Ultimately, it is wise to prepare as much as possible in advance to eliminate any last minute rushing around because we all know there’s nothing relaxing about cramming clothes into a suitcase when you should be leaving.

10. Make Time for Personal Self-Care Activities

It may be tempting to schedule every vacation activity around the attractions you can only find at your destination, but if you truly want to relax, be sure to include some personal self-care. For example, massages are well-known to reduce stress and anxiety, so booking into a spa for an hour or two will make your vacation more relaxing. You may also want to consider going to a movie to unwind while steering clear of the hottest part of the day.

A vacation is a proven way to lower your stress levels, but it also important to incorporate stress management techniques into your daily life. After all, stress is the leading cause of doctor visits in the U.S., so it is clear that everyone needs to find ways to relax more frequently and effectively.

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Featured photo credit: Jean Beaufort via publicdomainpictures.net

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Published on November 14, 2018

Why You Suffer from Constant Fatigue and How to Deal with It

Why You Suffer from Constant Fatigue and How to Deal with It

With our busy, always on lives, it seems that more and more of us are facing constant tiredness and fatigue on a regular basis.

For many people, they just take this in their stride as part of modern life, but for others the impact can be crippling and can have a serious effect on their sense of wellbeing, health and productivity.

In this article, I’ll share some of the most common causes of constant tiredness and fatigue and give you some guidance and action steps you can take to overcome some of the symptoms of fatigue.

Why Am I Feeling Fatigued?

Fatigue is extreme tiredness resulting from mental or physical exertion or illness.  It is a reduction in the efficiency of a muscle or organ after prolonged activity.[1]

It can affect anyone, and most adults will experience fatigue at some point in their life. 

For many people, fatigue is caused by a combination of lifestyle, social, psychological and general wellbeing issues rather than an underlying medical condition.

Although fatigue is sometimes described as tiredness, it is different to just feeling tired or sleepy. Everyone feels tired at some point, but this is usually resolved with a nap or a few nights of good sleep. Someone who is sleepy may also feel temporarily refreshed after exercising. If you are getting enough sleep, good nutrition and exercising regularly but still find it hard to perform, concentrate or be motivated at your normal levels, you may be experiencing a level of fatigue that needs further investigation. 

Symptoms of Fatigue

Fatigue can cause a vast range of physical, mental and emotional symptoms including:

  • chronic tiredness, exhaustion or sleepiness
  • mental blocks
  • lack of motivation
  • headache
  • dizziness
  • muscle weakness
  • slowed reflexes and responses
  • impaired decision-making and judgement
  • moodiness, such as irritability
  • impaired hand-to-eye coordination
  • reduced immune system function
  • blurry vision
  • short-term memory problems
  • poor concentration
  • reduced ability to pay attention to the situation at hand

Causes of Fatigue

The wide range of causes that can trigger fatigue include:

  • Medical causes: Constant exhaustion, tiredness and fatigue may be a sign of an underlying illness, such as a thyroid disorder, heart disease, anemia or diabetes.
  • Lifestyle-related causes: Being overweight and a lack of regular exercise can lead to feelings of fatigue.  Lack of sleep and overcommitting can also create feelings of excessive tiredness and fatigue.
  • Workplace-related causes: Workplace and financial stress in a variety of forms can lead to feelings of fatigue.
  • Emotional concerns and stress: Fatigue is a common symptom of mental health problems, such as depression and grief, and may be accompanied by other signs and symptoms, including irritability and lack of motivation.

Fatigue can also be caused by a number of factors working in combination.

Medical Causes of Fatigue

If you have made lifestyle changes to increase your energy and still feel exhausted and fatigued, it may be time to seek guidance from your doctor.

Here are a few examples of illnesses that can cause ongoing fatigue. Seek medical advice if you suspect you have a health problem:

Anemia

Anemia is a condition in which you don’t have enough healthy red blood cells to carry adequate oxygen to the body’s tissues. It is a common cause of fatigue in women.

Having anemia may make you feel tired and weak.

There are many forms of anemia, each with its own cause. Anemia can be temporary or long term, and it can range from mild to severe.[2]

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is a condition that can cause persistent, unexplained fatigue that interferes with daily activities for more than six months.

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This is a chronic condition with no one-size-fits-all treatment, but lifestyle changes can often help ease some symptoms of fatigue.[3]

Diabetes

Diabetes can cause fatigue with either high or low blood sugars. When your sugars are high, they remain in the bloodstream instead of being used for energy, which makes you feel fatigued. Low blood sugar (glucose) means you may not have enough fuel for energy, also causing fatigue.[4]

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder where sufferers briefly stop breathing for short periods during sleep. Most people are not aware this is happening, but it can cause loud snoring, and daytime fatigue.

Being overweight, smoking, and drinking alcohol can all worsen the symptoms of sleep apnea.[5]

Thyroid disease

An underactive thyroid gland means you have too little thyroid hormone (thyroxine) in your body. This makes you feel tired and you could also put on weight and have aching muscles and dry skin.[6]

Common lifestyle factors that can cause fatigue include:

  • Lack of sleep
  • Too much sleep 
  • Alcohol and drugs 
  • Sleep disturbances 
  • Lack of regular exercise and sedentary behaviour 
  • Poor diet 

Common workplace issues that can cause fatigue include:

  • Shift work: Our body is designed to sleep during the night. A shift worker may confuse their circadian clock by working when their body is programmed to be asleep.
  • Poor workplace practices: This may include long work hours, hard physical labour, irregular working hours (such as rotating shifts), a stressful work environment, boredom or working alone. 
  • Workplace stress – This can be caused by a wide range of factors including job dissatisfaction, heavy workload, conflicts with bosses or colleagues, bullying, or threats to job security.
  • Burnout: This could be striving too hard on one area of your life while neglecting others, which leads to a life that feels out of balance.

Psychological Causes of Fatigue

Psychological factors are present in many cases of extreme tiredness and fatigue.  These may include:

  • Depression: Depression is characterised by severe and prolonged feelings of sadness, dejection and hopelessness. People who are depressed commonly experience chronic fatigue.
  • Anxiety and stress: Someone who is constantly anxious or stressed keeps their body in overdrive. The constant flooding of adrenaline exhausts the body, and fatigue sets in.
  • Grief: Losing a loved one causes a wide range of emotions including shock, guilt, depression, despair and loneliness.

How to Tackle Constant Fatigue

Here are 12 ways you can start tackling the causes of fatigue and start feeling more energetic.

1. Tell The Truth

Some people can numb themselves to the fact that they are overtired or fatigued all the time. In the long run, this won’t help you.

To give you the best chance to overcome or eliminate fatigue, you must diagnose and tell the truth about the things that are draining your energy, making you tired or causing constant fatigue.

Once you’re honest with yourself about the activities you’re doing in your life that you find irritating, energy-draining, and make you tired on a regular basis you can make a commitment to stop doing them.

The help that you need to overcome fatigue is available to you, but not until you tell the truth about it. The first person you have to sell on getting rid of the causes of fatigue is yourself.

One starting point is to diagnose the symptoms. When you start feeling stressed, overtired or just not operating at your normal energy levels make a note of:

  • How you feel
  • What time of day it is
  • What may have contributed to your fatigue
  • How your mind and body reacts

This analysis may help you identify, understand and then eliminate very specific causes.

2. Reduce Your Commitments

When we have too many things on our plate personally and professionally, we can feel overstretched, causing physical and mental fatigue.

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If you have committed to things you really don’t want to do, this causes irritability and low emotional engagement. Stack these up throughout your day and week, then your stress levels will rise.

When these commitments have deadlines associated with them, you may be trying to cram in far too much in a short period of time.  This creates more stress and can affect your decision making ability.

Start being realistic about how much you can get done. Either reduce the commitments you have or give yourself more time to complete them in.

3. Get Clear On Your Priorities

If working on your list of to-do’s or goals becomes too overwhelming, start reducing and prioritizing the things that matter most.

Start with prioritizing just 3 things every day. When you complete those 3 things, you’ll get a rush of energy and your confidence will grow.

If you’re trying to juggle too many things and are multi-tasking, your energy levels will drop and you’ll struggle to maintain focus.

Unfinished projects can make you self-critical and feel guilty which drops energy levels further, creating inaction.

Make a list of your 3 MIT (Most Important Tasks) for the next day before you go to bed. This will stop you overcommitting and get you excited about what the next day can bring.

4. Express More Gratitude

Gratitude and confidence are heavily linked. Just being thankful for what you have and what you’ve achieved increases confidence and makes you feel more optimistic.

It can help you improve your sense of wellbeing, which can bring on feelings of joy and enthusiasm.

Try starting a gratitude journal or just note down 3 things you’re grateful for every day.

5. Focus On Yourself

Exhaustion and fatigue can arrive by focusing solely on other people’s needs all the time, rather than worrying about and focusing on what you need (and want).

There are work commitments, family commitments, social commitments. You may start with the best intentions, to put in your best performance at work, to be an amazing parent and friend, to simply help others.

But sometimes, we extend ourselves too much and go beyond our personal limits to help others. That’s when constant exhaustion can creep up on us.  Which can make us more fatigued.

We all want to help and do our best for others, but there needs to be some balance. We also need to take some time out just for ourselves to recharge and rejuvenate.

6. Set Aside Rest and Recovery Time

Whether it’s a couple of hours, a day off, a mini-break or a proper holiday, time off is essential to help us recover, recharge and refocus.

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Recovery time helps fend off mental fatigue and allows us to simply kick back and relax.

The key here, though, is to remove ourselves from the daily challenges that bring on tiredness and fatigue. Here’s how.

Can you free yourself up completely from work and personal obligations to just rest and recover?

7. Take a Power Nap

When you’re feeling tired or fatigued and you have the ability to take a quick 20-minute nap, it could make a big difference to your performance for the rest of the day.

Napping can improve learning, memory and boost your energy levels quickly.

This article on the benefit of napping is a useful place to start if you want to learn more: How a 20-Minute Nap at Work Makes You Awake and Productive the Whole Day

8. Take More Exercise

The simple act of introducing some form of physical activity into your day can make a huge difference. It can boost energy levels, make you feel much better about yourself and can help you avoid fatigue.

Find something that fits into your life, be that walking, going to the gym, running or swimming. 

The key is to ensure the exercise is regular and that you are emotionally engaged and committed to stick with it.

You could also walk more which will help clear your head and shift your focus away from stressful thoughts.

9. Get More Quality Sleep

To avoid tiredness, exhaustion and fatigue, getting enough quality sleep matters. 

Your body needs sleep to recharge.  Getting the right amount of sleep every night can improve your health, reduce stress levels and help us improve our memory and learning skills.

My previous article on The Benefits of Sleep You Need to Know will give you some action steps to start improving your sleep. 

10. Improve Your Diet

Heavy or fatty meals can make you feel sluggish and tired, whilst some foods or eating strategies do just the opposite.

Our always on lives have us reaching for sweets or other sugary snacks to give us a burst of energy to keep going. Unfortunately, that boost fades quickly which can leave you feeling depleted and wanting more.

On the other hand, whole grains and healthy unsaturated fats supply the reserves you can draw on throughout the day.

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To keep energy up and steady, it’s a good idea to limit refined sugar and starches.

Eating small meals and healthy snacks every few hours throughout the day provides a steady supply of nutrients to body and brain. It’s also important not to skip breakfast.

Eating a balanced diet helps keep your blood sugar in a normal range and prevents that sluggish feeling when your blood sugar drops.

11. Manage Your Stress Levels

Stress is one of the leading causes of exhaustion and fatigue, and can seriously affect your health.

When you have increased levels of stress at work and at home, it’s easy to feel exhausted all the time. 

Identifying the causes of stress and then tackling the problems should be a priority. 

My article on How to Help Anxiety When Life is Stressing You Out shares 16 strategies you can use to overcome stress.

12. Get Hydrated

Sometimes we can be so busy that we forget to keep ourselves fully hydrated.

Water makes up about 60 percent of your body weight and is essential in maintaining our body’s basic functions.

If we don’t have enough water, it can adversely affect our mental and physical performance, which leads to tiredness and fatigue.

The recommended daily amount is around two litres a day, so to stay well hydrated keep a water bottle with you as much as possible.

The Bottom Line

These 12 tips can help you reduce your tiredness and feeling of fatigue.  Some will work better than others as we are all different, whilst others can be incorporated together in your daily life.

If you’ve tried to make positive changes to reduce fatigue and you still feel tired and exhausted, it may be time to consider making an appointment with your doctor to discuss your condition.

Featured photo credit: Annie Spratt via unsplash.com

Reference

[1]Oxford English Dictionary: Definition of fatigue
[2]NHS Choices: 10 Reasons for feeling tired
[3]Verywellhealth: What is chronic fatigue syndrome
[4]Everyday Health: Why does type 2 diabetes make you feel tired
[5]Mayo Clinic: Sleep apnea
[6]Harvard Health: The lowdown on thyroid slowdown

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