For many of us, the year is spread into two distinct parts: the “work like a Trojan” months when we burn the candle at both ends and the “well-deserved holiday” weeks when we try to soothe those frayed nerve endings to allow us to do it all again.

But after burning out after 10 years climbing the New York corporate ladder, Hana Jung, 39, now believes holidays shouldn’t be the holy grail of self-care.

In fact, the “clarity and mindset coach” hasn’t had a scheduled holiday for four years, which she puts down to creating holiday vibes in her daily life.

After burning out in the corporate world, Hana Jung believes vacations shouldn’t be the holy grail of self-care. Credit:Brent Harrewyn

Sure, she can work remotely and relocates regularly, including six months of the year based in Nicaragua where she can surf and hike to her heart’s content. But she says the more powerful element is strict boundaries that allow her to slow down each day.

“I make weekends sacred and don’t answer work emails or calls, and I either take Fridays off or finish each weekday at 3pm or 4pm [to be] fully present in my own life,” she says.

“Rather than binge eating then starving, I see it as ‘snacking’ [on free time] constantly.”

“Rather than binge-eating then starving, I see it as ‘snacking’ [on free time] constantly. I don’t need to schedule big vacations because I already feel energised.”

The problem with holidays

While many of us feel we can’t relax until our out-of-office is set and we’re lying poolside, Jung says such attitudes actually create a lot of negativity about our daily lives and careers.

“‘Living for the holidays’ [implies] that the majority of your waking life isn’t good enough or is almost like punishment,” she points out.

And when we do finally get to our holiday destination, Jung says we often have little energy left to enjoy ourselves, or feel so guilty for taking time off that we constantly check emails.

“You almost use up the majority of your vacation recuperating,” she says.

“Rather than thinking, ‘Work is the priority here and we get the leftovers’ … people are starting to wake up to [the idea of] designing a life you don’t need a vacation from, where you can actually pay yourself in real time with micro holidays or a ‘holiday mindset’.”

Does the way we holiday need a re-think?Credit:iStock

Channel your holiday self

If you want to bring holiday vitality into your daily life, Jung suggests tapping into the feelings you get on a break.

“It might be feeling well rested, indulging curiosity, feeling connected with loved ones or having freedom of choice,” she says

So whether it’s starting your day with a long nature walk, pampering yourself with a homemade body scrub or reading a book in the sun, Jung suggests writing a list of what you’d be doing if you could, then calling on it when you have a blank window.

“It’s really easy for us to use any blank space for work, so have a plan to use that blank space for nourishment and to feed your energy”

“If I have extra time, I click on [my list] and I’m able to see, ‘If I had extra time, I’d be surfing or reading that book or calling so-and-so to catch up’,” she says.

“It’s really easy for us to use any blank space for work, so have a plan to use that blank space for nourishment and to feed your energy … [just as you] would if it were a new city or exotic place.”

Even five minutes out of the daily grind can be a helpful refresher.

“There is a reason why they say ‘take five!’ on a set – taking five is valuable,” says clinical psychologist Dr Lillian Nejad.

“It might not be as much time as you’d like but it can give you that moment of rest that can help you function.”

And if those renovations or chores keep calling while you’re trying to holiday-at-home, then head out to see what your local neighbourhood can dish up.

“Go to a friend’s house, take yourself to your favourite café, see a movie or walk on the beach,” Nejad suggests.

“Me time doesn’t have to mean alone time – it’s about choosing something that you find enjoyable, relaxing or rejuvenating.”

But still book a big break

As valuable as such small acts of self-care might be, Nejad says studies place high value on holidays for our mental and physical wellbeing, including less stress, improved sleep and reduced risk of heart disease and diabetes.

“We need those longer periods away from work.”

Nejad says that many of us have “aha!” life moments when we are in new environments that can help us reflect and rethink our daily grind.

“[Being] in a different environment can boost your cognitive flexibility, your creativity and your learning – all of those things help you when you get back.”

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