Ready for the island? Why we all need vacation
What does vacation mean and what do we need it for? A Frankfurt psychology professor investigates this question. The expert explains how a well-planned and consciously experienced vacation can ensure a good work-life balance in the long term. The psychologist gives tips on how the best time of the year does not become a stress trap.
Professor Dr. Nikolai Egold is a graduate psychologist and head of the Psychology School at the Fresenius University in Frankfurt. In a science blog by Fresenius University of Applied Sciences, he explains why vacation is so important to us and how we can get the most out of it. According to the expert, a five-day week is only available in theory for the majority of the working population. Double burdens from education or care and the new possibilities of digitization have long blurred the areas between working hours and leisure time.
Available around the clock
Five days of work, two days off - that is how many people work on paper. “The decisive factor is not the official or legally regulated working time,” reports the Fresenius expert. According to the Federal Statistical Office, an average of 11 percent of all full-time workers would work more than 48 hours a week. Added to this is the voluntary working time that is being done from home in the course of increasing digitalization. Many workers answer professional emails and calls in their free time, even on weekends or after work.
The fairy tale of the five-day week
According to the Fresenius University of Applied Sciences, almost half of all working women (46.5 percent) are employed part-time and at the same time take on the tasks of childcare and, later in life, caring for relatives. These are double loads, which must also be continued on weekends. According to the psychologist, the idea of a five-day workweek today only applies to a small proportion of the workforce, which is predominantly male.
Really switch off
"On vacation we have the opportunity to benefit from real relaxation, provided that occupational activities are reduced to a minimum and accessibility is only used in emergencies," explains Egold. It is important to really switch off to be able to enjoy consciously. Holidays are essential for well-being and performance.
Don't make your vacation a stress trap
Just relax? Easier said than done. What can we do on vacation to unwind? Climb a mountain? Go on safari? Or laze on balconies? In the psychologist's opinion, it is not what we do, but how. There are two crucial aspects that are conducive to a relaxing holiday.
Good preparation prevents unnecessary stress
Good preparation promotes the anticipation for the holiday in advance and also reduces the stress that unfinished business takes with you on holiday. Anyone who has to quickly buy a train ticket, book a hotel room or apartment or regulate the care of pets quickly gets into unnecessary stress that reduces the recovery effect.
Don't have unrealistic expectations
According to psychologists, conscious anticipation is very important. Here, unrealistic expectations should be avoided in order not to be disappointed. For example, you shouldn't expect too many romantic hours for two when you go on vacation with children, says the Fresenius expert.
Less is more
Likewise, too many undertakings undertaken could turn into stress. On vacation, you shouldn't have the same schedule pressure as is often the case at work. Holidays also mean being able to choose an activity freely, spontaneously and depending on your mood. Nevertheless, it couldn't hurt to face an unknown challenge on vacation, such as exploring a new area or trying out a new sport. This could build cognitive resources, says Egold.
How do you know you're ready for a vacation?
The psychology professor explains that people have a very individual and different feeling of stress. Basically, vacation is always advisable when there is a feeling at work that you are only challenged and you suffer from increased irritability, fatigue or constant exhaustion. Even if you no longer feel pleasure or satisfaction from your work, it is high time for the island.
How much vacation do people need?
Egold reports on studies that found increased performance and satisfaction of up to four weeks after the holiday. However, this increase is rather small. Amazingly, the length of the vacation did not have a great effect on the positive effects that followed. According to the expert, a longer vacation combined with several smaller breaks is the ideal mix for relaxation, so that the positive effects can be repeated as often as possible during the year. (vb)