Endless summer: Six ways to hang on to that holiday feeling
After two weeks of sunshine and al fresco eating, it can be hard to return to the office. But what if there was a way to keep the holiday feeling alive? asks Eleanor Steafel
No matter how old I get, I still subconsciously mark my year by the school calendar. Somehow, September always feels like the start of a new year more than January ever does.
Little wonder that experts increasingly advise us to make resolutions at this time rather than in the New Year. If you're going to embark on a new healthy eating plan or fitness regime, the chances of sticking to it are surely far higher now - when the days are still long and you're still tingling with a post-summer holiday glow - than in the depths of winter when you are 75pc roast potato, 25pc Terry's chocolate orange.
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So I'm calling time on the biannual lists of unachievable aims that I will later use to self-flagellate with when I inevitably ditch them one by one.
Instead, I'm just going to try to take all the best bits of a summer holiday and work them into everyday life. Here, experts reveal the secrets of beating the back-to-work blues and keeping the holiday feeling alive.
1 HAVE BREAKFAST IN THE GARDEN
Why do we often sleep so soundly on holiday? All the time we spend outside is likely to be a factor. Regular exposure to daylight - particularly in the mornings - helps to calibrate the body's internal clock, helping you feel sleepy at night and alert in the daytime.
One 2017 study of workers in five government office buildings across the United States found those who were exposed to the greatest amounts of light between 8am and noon fell asleep more quickly at night and had fewer sleep disturbances. They were also less likely to report feelings of depression and stress. In other words, the croissants and coffee you enjoyed on the terrace every morning on holiday really were doing you good.
"When you look at the sun, for your body it's like looking at Big Ben and checking the time - a process called entrainment, where your bodyclock synchronises with the local time," says Leon Kreitzman, author of Seasons Of Life.
He advises getting into the habit of going outside as soon as possible after waking - or at least opening your curtains to let the sunlight in.
2 WALK AND TALK
A blissful two weeks can pass with very few arguments (barring the inevitable tense exchange while picking up the hire car), and we return refreshed and deeply in love. Before long, though, we find ourselves slipping back into old gripes and squabbles.
Relate counsellor Dee Holmes says holidays can be a great time to hit the reset button on your relationship. "It's quite a good sign that things are okay in your relationship if on holiday things are alright," she says.
"At home, you can feel like things aren't going well, but actually the connection is still there - it's all the other stuff in life which is making things tense, whether it's getting on with the housework, doing packed lunches or the school-run.
"We can't live for holidays but we can use it as a bit of a wake-up call to say, 'Why are we letting life take over?'"
Psychologist Jane Ogden agrees: "Some families have a 'no arguments' rule for holidays and there's no reason that can't be sustained when you get back. It can be a good reminder to pick your battles and let some things go."
The holiday habit of walking for pleasure is another one to try and keep up - especially when tensions are bubbling over in your family.
"Walking side by side and talking is much less tense than sitting opposite each other at a table - you can look around at your surroundings and it takes you out of yourself."
3 CREATE A MEDITERRANEAN KITCHEN
Granted, the daily ice-creams and rosé consumption probably shouldn't form quite such a large chunk of your diet on returning home, but there are other aspects of holiday eating which you can work into normal life.
"We eat a lot more fruit and veg than we normally would when we're abroad - and that makes us feel better," says dietician and nutritionist Sarah Keogh of Eatwell.
"Without realising it we're getting a bit more fibre which is good for digestion. And we also tend to eat more fish which makes us feel lighter and gives us a bit more energy."
Keogh advises adding more fruit and veg to your diet by adding some simple recipes to your repertoire. "We tend to boil vegetables in Ireland, but just a little bit of work can make them taste so much better," she says. She also suggests a vitamin D supplement for the winter months.
Slowing down while eating is another holiday habit you can bring home, she adds. "We tend to relax over a meal on holiday and when we slow down we're less likely to get indigestion. To extend the holiday feeling, put time aside to really enjoy your meals."
4 TAKE YOUR WORK-OUT OUTSIDE
Away from the routine of the gym and the spin class, many take the opportunity to exercise outside on holiday, whether it's cycling through fields or jogging on the beach.
"The beauty of a holiday is that it's a great time to try new stuff," says fitness expert and host of the Independent's Real Health podcast, Karl Henry.
"People try surfing, mountain biking and outdoor yoga, but they sometimes forget that all of these sports are available to them when they get home. They just need the right gear to stay warm."
Henry says people tend to be more motivated to incorporate exercise into their daily routine when they're on holiday. "It's easier to start something new on holiday because you're in a new environment," he says.
"So the learning curve there is that you need to change up your routine as much as possible. If you run the same route every week, run somewhere new. If you do a Pilates or yoga class, try a new instructor."
Similarly, sea swimming needn't be something just for holidays, says Henry, who adds that there are sea swimming groups all over Ireland. "Start by going once a week," he says. "People often come back from holiday with big plans, but when you start small you're more likely to keep it up."
5 STOP WORRYING ABOUT SLEEP
"When we're on holiday we sleep without stress," says James Wilson, a sleep behaviour expert who runs The Sleep Geek consultancy. "The alarm is removed, we sleep in a way that fits our individual sleep type, stop using trackers and listen to our body more.
"Of course, when you're back at home you can't do all of that as you need to get up for work or school - but it is worth remembering that a lot of the sleep problems I see are related to anxieties over how much people tell themselves they need.
"We're constantly being told about the dangers of not getting enough sleep, but I advise taking the pressure off yourself and forcing yourself into bed at particular times."
Wilson adds that holidays often encourage us to use technology in a more healthy way and engage in more relaxing pastimes before bed - reading a novel, for example, rather than checking work emails. "Take note of how that makes you feel and how you sleep at night as a result."
6 RECREATE HOLIDAY SEX
Dee Holmes suggests trying to work some of the things you love most about holidays into everyday life in order to maintain your connection with your partner.
"If you think about the things that make up a holiday - you're able to have that morning cup of coffee at a café watching the world go by, or go for an evening walk before dinner. Taking half an hour out of your weekend to have coffee together, or getting out of the house and going for a walk in the evening can really help."
The same can apply when it comes to sex: "On holiday people might have sex at times of the day when they're not usually able to in their normal life. In normal life you think 'we'll have sex tonight' and then it's 10pm and you're too tired. Find other times of day to be together."