Holding on to the holidays

Heading back to work? Take some time to consider what you want to hold on to from your holidays. Here’s some thoughts from Holly Hammond to get you started. 

Go back to work - or keep enjoying the view?

Go back to work – or keep enjoying the view?


Yesterday was my first day back at work after a wonderful long holiday. Although I totally love my job I must admit I’m feeling a little down about getting back to it.

2013 was a demanding year and by December I was pretty run down and strung out. It took a long time to step down from that stress.

I finally got in to the swing of doing whatever I wanted without pressure or obligation, and noticed I was actually relaxed and spontaneously happy. And now I have to go back to work??

It’s daunting to step back up again. I’m noticing that relaxation involves vulnerability – letting go of defenses and being open-hearted. Something in me assumes that in order to work I have to put on all the armour again and be ready to face battle. Perhaps that’s an aspect of activism too, pushing against the stream, embracing discomfort. It’s important and rewarding… but not exactly relaxing.

I don’t want to live for sparkling periods of respite, I want a good life all year round. I actually already have one, but I want to be able to notice that a whole lot more.

So my mind has turned to what I want to hold on to from my holiday. Here are some things I want to make a note of now, before I forget in the push and pull of everyday life.

  • Savouring food. On holiday food becomes a real joy for me. There’s more time to prepare tasty things, more time to enjoy eating them. In a not-very-full-day the meals become highlights and definers of time. How to hold on to this? One way is by being more mindful. This year most of my meals will be eaten at a table with a view of the sky, not of a screen. I’m going to make sure I take lunch breaks that have a little time out after eating, so I’m not just refueling before throwing myself back in to work. I’m going to pay more attention to what I consume and how it makes me feel (I’m looking at you, sugar). Every six weeks I’m going out for a really decadent lunch or dinner with my partner. Ah, wonderful food.
  • Moderating social media. I visited Facebook very intermittently and Twitter hardly at all during my holiday. A lot of the time I put my phone on airplane setting or left it behind. I didn’t miss it. I’m increasingly aware that social media is a stressor in my life. There is much that I enjoy and find useful about it, but I also experience it as a barrage of information and feelings that tire me. As a politically engaged person there is so much I’m drawn to care about and it’s easy to overload. In the interests of being calm and present I’m going to experiment with limiting my time on Facebook and Twitter. Here’s some tips for mindful use of social media, and two videos about why it’s a good idea.
  • Doing what I feel like. Some people find it hard to focus on tasks and follow through with them (in which case you might find this article on procrastination useful). That’s not my problem – I have a strong sense of purpose and I’m really driven and productive. My struggle is to do things that don’t have a purpose, other than being enjoyable. Holidays give me the space to check in with myself and do things I want to do. I’ve decided to keep giving myself that space. I’m taking an afternoon a week of unstructured time, and I’ll figure out then what I’ll do. Wish me luck.
  • Relaxing anyway. It shouldn’t take weeks for my muscles to loosen, my mind to clear, and my heart to lighten. I want to notice everyday that I don’t need to fight or fly, I can relax. I’m going to prioritise things like swimming, tai chi, walking along the creek, reading, laughing, listening to music and just lying down breathing. I’m going to try some of these techniques.

Oh yeah, I’m also going to plan another holiday.

Please note: I’m aware that many people don’t have access to annual leave or ‘leisure time’. I’m middle-class and self-employed so I get to decide when I work or don’t, within economic pressures and my own sense of a mission. I’m also not a parent or other carer, so my time is my own. I want to acknowledge the privileged perspective I bring to this article and I welcome other perspectives. I’m also very thankful for the many years of collective action by unions for annual leave and reasonable working hours. Unions are under attack by conservative forces that seek to further erode working conditions. If you value your holidays join your union.


HH FranklinAbout the author

Holly Hammond is a co-convenor of Plan to Thrive (along with Helen Cox), the director of Plan to Win, and one of the hosts of the Melbourne Campaigners’ Network. Holly and Helen will be offering a special MCN session in early February focused on activist health and wellbeing – details coming soon. More information about PTT’s convenors can be found here.

< Here’s Holly on holiday beside the mighty Franklin River.


What do you want to hold on to from your holidays?

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3 Responses to “Holding on to the holidays”

  1. Lovely post Holly! I’ve been thinking about this too as I transition back to work. I really like your point about food – I noticed that when on holiday I always ate breakfast with just the breakfast, whereas in normal life I might be doing a hundred things at the same time! So I’m trying to be more mindful when eating.

    It also reminded me – and this is like your “doing what I like” point – of how much I enjoy some things that I only seem to do in holidays. I did a number of jigsaws and played lots of board games and I’m keen to see if I can incorporate these past-times into my non-holiday life. Let’s hope so.

  2. Holly what a beautiful article and I am grateful for the end note acknowledging different perspectives and the role of unions – a good reminder.

    I wish you luck with the unstructured afternoons, they sound super!

    During my holidays I experienced true rest, I followed my intuition and lived with wholeheartedness. I intend to activate these feelings daily in 2014.

  3. Many thanks for your comments Joel and Jessica!

    A little over a week back in to work I’m noticing my tendency to speed up and get driven about completing tasks, even though things are spacious enough at this time of year that I don’t need to rush. That’s one of the things I appreciate about the early stages of work post-holiday – I can notice things that become normal or invisible when I’ve been working for a long time. I’m going to keep trying to stay present, really noticing what is going on, rather than running on auto-pilot.

    And yay for jigsaws and boardgames! Whenever I play cards it is like a little slice of holiday 🙂