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  The best getaway? Not getting away at all

August 26 2003 at 08:23AM

By Leah Hardy

The advice for people suffering from work-related stress used to be simple: take a holiday. But in these days of cellphones, e-mails and job insecurity, it seems that lying by the pool can be even more stressful than a hectic day in the office.

While most of us won't be quite as tense on holiday as Tony Blair, who will be leaving Cherie and the children to jet back and forth from his Barbados hideaway to attend to domestic crises, a study by recruitment consultants says one in four of us suffers from pre-holiday tension even before we step on the plane.

And things aren't much better once we've arrived. Half of us live in fear something will go wrong at work in our absence, and one in ten of us is terrified we'll be made redundant and won't have a job to return to.

Five million people in the UK won't take their full holiday entitlement this year
Because of this, five million people in the UK won't take their full holiday entitlement this year, and some of us will even cancel holidays at the last moment because we have so much to do at work.

Even if we do make it, most of us will be so busy finishing off projects before we go that we'll be exhausted by the time we get to our destination.

Even the most loved-up of celebrity couples don't escape.

Take Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones, who recently were spotted having a remarkably vigorous discussion on board their luxury yacht in the Mediterranean.

Despite the fact that they had workers dispensing iced drinks and polishing their sunglasses, balmy weather and a pool, something seemed to be irritating the 58-year-old star as he pointed at his wife and paced up and down in a manner that observers described as far from relaxed.

Most couples on holiday are actually still deep in their work personas, each used to being in charge in the office and used to seeing each other at the end of the day. For many, it's impossible to shift gear instantly into calm intimacy.

Stress coach Louise Smart says that despite the problems, having a relaxing holiday is more important than ever for our wellbeing. "I see more and more people who find it impossible to switch off on holiday, and this has adverse effects on their health," she says.

Smart, who trains executives in stress management and positive living, says: "I recently spoke to a company director who told me: 'The 24-hour global market means I'm on constant alert, even on holiday. It is like living with a continuous white noise. I'm never free of it and I never wake up refreshed these days.'

"Lots of my clients feel that way, and it can easily take them the first week of their holiday to even begin to enjoy it."

Smart says that no matter how stressed you are, or how high-powered your job, anyone can learn to relax on holiday.

"I coach people with a mixture of physical, psychological and practical techniques. You begin them before you go away, so you can start enjoying the holiday the minute it begins.

"I recommend clients do these things up to six weeks ahead, but they will show benefits from day one. So even if you're booked to go away this weekend, I can promise you a happier holiday."

  • This article was originally published on page 16 of The Star on August 26, 2003

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