How to make the most of that 10-day break

The articles started appearing late last year, offering a simple HR hack: "Take three days of leave for a 10-day holiday."

Many 9-5ers followed the advice, booking in leave on April 23 and 24, and then April 26 to earn themselves a holiday from Good Friday to the Sunday after Anzac Day.

For those clever people, a glorious stretch of break awaits. But, how can you make the most of your 10 days? We asked the experts.

Have 10 days off? Here’s how to spend it.Credit:Stocksy

Sleep: replenish your sleep debt, but try to return to a routine

Can the sleep-deprived atone for their sins with two weeks of sleep-ins?

"The answer is yes and no," says Professor Sean Drummond from the Monash Institute of Cognitive and Clinical Neurosciences.

"There is such thing as recovery sleep and, when you have a sleep debt because you've been getting inadequate sleep, getting extra sleep over a period of time can help get you back to baseline in terms of alertness, or performance, or sleepiness during the day."

However, recovery sleep is unlikely to adequately replace the benefits of deep, slow wave sleep (the restorative stage of sleep, which assists memory), as well as REM sleep (the dreaming stage of sleep, associated with emotional memory).

"The truth is, you need the overall mix of sleep stages and they need to be in roughly the right proportions, regularly: that's how you have optimal sleep health."

If you want to make the most of your sleep over the break, Professor Drummond recommends spending the first few days of your break catching up hours, before at least returning to your regular 9-5 waketime, to avoid "social jetlag" when next Monday's alarm rings.

Mental health: when you say you're 'out-of-office', mean it

Seven to 10 days is viewed as the perfect period of time to be away from the office, explains founder of The Happiness Project and positive psychologist Dr Timothy Sharp.

"The argument is that we need a few days to wind down, but that anything more than a week or so doesn’t add any significant benefit," he says, advising people use their annual leave to take a number of shorter holidays rather than one long one.

As for making the most of the leave you've booked, Dr Sharp says the preparation starts before you leave the office: finish as much of your work as you can so it isn't hanging over your head over the break, and set an out-of-office email indicating who will be taking on your tasks when you are away.

"Reassure yourself you’re not being lazy, or letting anyone down," he says. "Rather, you’re doing what’s important to maintain your health and wellbeing and so, in the long run, perform well."

Diet: let yourself enjoy the season

There is likely to be plenty of good food around over the April holiday period and, nutritionist Jess Sepel says you should enjoy it.

"Plenty of nutritionists ask people to avoid eating delicious Easter treats. In my professional option, this is not only unrealistic and unnecessary but it can damage your relationship with food."

Instead, Ms Sepel recommends eating the treats with joy and without guilt, while remembering to also eat nourishing, balanced meals to provide your body with the nutrients it needs to thrive.

"When you give yourself permission to enjoy food, you're more able to practise balanced eating. If you restrict yourself from eating 'indulgent foods' or 'treats', it can backfire and lead to overeating or binge eating. I've been there and it's not pleasant."

Fitness: revisit your New Year's resolution and work on forming good habits

It takes 21 days to form a fitness habit, says personal trainer Ben Lucas, founder of Sydney's Flow Athletic, but you can use 10 days away from work to give yourself a good start.

"When starting out, I recommend that people start their day by doing something active, everyday, even if it's only for 10 minutes," he says. "This will help you build a routine, plus if for any reason you miss the morning session, you still have all day to make up for it."

Lucas suggests developing a quick 10-minute routine you can do at home with no equipment, like skipping or burpees, which you can default to more intensive plans are thwarted.

Of course, finding time for exercise can be much easier when you're not at work. Lucas recommends committing to a future goals, like a fitness challenge or a fun run, to keep the motivation going once you're back on the daily grind.

But, also, it is okay to have a break: fitness on holiday should be fun, and not a chore.

"Don’t be worried if you slip up on the way, especially on Easter Sunday, you still have more than enough time to get started."

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