Holiday time – Is there too much pressure to “switch off”?

by Catriona Mackenzie

Were you one of those kids who surveyed your holiday surroundings thinking “This will make an excellent story in my summer holidays report for school”? And as an adult do you find yourself surreptitiously checking Twitter and LinkedIn for news and updates when you “should” be reading from your stack of holiday books? Often we like to blame modern technology and the ‘world we live in’ for finding it difficult to switch off and relax on holiday, but I have a sneaking suspicion that, for me anyway, personality comes into it. 

So what does this mean when facing a week off work? Now, I wouldn’t call myself a workaholic or even go as far as to say I find it impossible to switch off, but I think like many people I struggle with the temptation to “check-in” with work emails whilst taking leave, and keep “in-the-loop” with the news.

For those of us working in PR, media, journalism it is commonplace for checking the news to be an ordinary part of our daily routine, like brushing our teeth or grabbing a coffee. In recent years though many more people are closely following the daily news cycle, with Amnesty International even going as far as issuing advice on how to cope with news overload back in April 2020. 

In their News consumption in the UK report 2021, Ofcom revealed 73% of news consumption amongst UK adults took place online. So, it’s safe to say a lot of us are using our phones, laptops and tablets to stay informed, and many of us will still do that whilst on days off. So let’s try a different approach… 

What’s the Good News? Find out. 

Why not try a different type of news, news to inspire good conversations in tapas restaurants or rainy Scottish holiday lets that (fingers crossed) doesn’t ruin the vibe. I’m talking, of course, about ‘good news’ sites. They may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but a few minutes scrolling through some happy stories may do you the world of good. The Good News Network is a well known American news website focused on sharing positive news from around the world. Similarly there’s Positive News magazine online, a UK-based uplifting media outlet. For the more traditional news readers amongst us, the BBC even organises its own inspiring and uplifting stories into pages. 

There is of course the small issue of avoiding swiping from a good news webpage down and across to a work email folder. Yes there’s nothing quite like getting into your holiday accommodation, only to be gripped by sudden fear of wondering if the email out-of-office is on properly and having to check immediately. Most of us will probably have checked this multiple times before even getting to the end of our street, let alone near a train or plane. Of course it doesn’t help that we carry small compact offices in the form of a smartphone on our person at all times, but our phones are tools and we can simply adapt how we use them when we’re trying to unwind. 

Smartphones away from home

Modern technology is great. Let’s not waste time reminiscing about the good old days of sending postcards from your holiday or the epic journey of going to get your photos printed. Postcards are still lovely to send and receive, and printing services are only a click away. It is nothing short of fantastic that when we’re out and about we can take a quick snap and upload it or share with friends and family, share recommendations for new places to go, and share the joy of our well earned breaks. Where some of us might be stuck though is finding ourselves sitting by a fabulous cafe replying to comments and messages, rather than enjoying being in the moment. If you recognise this scene, try these tips. 

  • Snap now, share later: Do you really need to post holiday updates in real time, and more importantly – do you want to? Take photos and pop a few up at once later on in the day, the next day, or even do a photo dump on the way home when you’re waiting in a departure lounge or sitting on a train. If you’re flying abroad, you can draft social media posts and set them to upload once you’re back online. 
  • Copy and paste a ‘I’m on holiday’ message to send to friends and family. It may sound odd, but we do it with our out-of-office for colleagues, so why not have a quick message for friends? Feel free to adapt and copy this: Hi! I might take ages to reply because I’m on holiday and taking some time to relax and have fun. If I don’t message in the next few days, don’t worry – I’ll message when I’m back next week. Talk soon! 
  • Pick your favourite contacts. An important thing to remember about a smartphone is that it is indeed a phone. If anything truly urgent happens, you will very likely get a phone call, and an easy way to make sure you don’t miss an important message is to set your favourite contacts. Many phone settings allow you to pick a few ‘favourite’ contacts whose calls will come through and ring even if your phone is on silent. This is one to watch if you’re at quiet events, but it could help stop you from tapping your screen every few minutes checking to see if a babysitter, boss, or travel agent has tried to call. 

Above all consider whether the pressure to switch-off is actually making it harder to enjoy yourself. It’s been a stressful few years and trustworthy information has become a valued part of so many people’s lives as we navigate through major life changes. Nowadays it certainly feels harder than ever to “just switch off” or “put your phone down,” because for a while there breaking news alerts and 24 hour broadcasts were the thing that let us know if we could do rather basic things like leave our house for more than an hour. Seeing our friends out and about in the world, posting from their own mini-breaks and holidays can be its own mini-good news source, and may be a good day brightener ahead of venturing out. So let’s give ourselves a break and try a gentler approach.

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