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Vacations are one of the most enjoyable parts of the summer – or any time of year – but the weeks leading up to the trip can be a stressful time.


April 9, 2018

Aside from the packing and preparing, work is piling up on your desk before your departure.

MedExpress is here to help you stay organized and lower your stress levels at work before your time off.

Keep Calm and Stay Organized

Everyone has different ways of staying organized, whether that is keeping a day planner, using post-it notes with reminders, or setting tasks with notifications on your computer. Regardless of the method you use, a to-do list can help to keep you in line with what is most important to do before heading out on vacation and prevent you from straying to a task that can wait.

Label your to-do list with As, Bs, and Cs, according to their deadlines or importance. The tasks labeled with an A are what must get done before you leave on vacation. The Bs are what you hope to accomplish beforehand. The C tasks are things that can wait until you return. You may even want to go a step further and create an outline for your colleague(s) to reference of the projects that may need assistance while you are on vacation. Be sure to give them advance notice of when you’ll be out of the office and delegate who should handle the different parts of the projects.

calendar sitting on desk with days circled and a sticky note that says vacation

When the work begins piling up, remind yourself that you are doing the best that you can with the time that you have. Keep in mind that you also have the ability to say “No” if you are unable to take on additional tasks. If a co-worker asks for your assistance on a project, be reasonable on the timeline when he or she can expect the finished product. Being straightforward on the other deadlines and tasks that you currently have is a way to show your colleagues that you care about the work they are asking of you, but want to also have the time to create something of the highest quality.

Just remember that you deserve the time off that you are planning to take, and it is okay to ask for help to meet the deadlines. If you feel like you are unable to manage the demands, consider a discussion with your manager. He or she may be able to help you prioritize the most important needs and decide what can wait until you return.

3 Ways to Relieve Stress Right in the Workplace

1. Try Some Deep Breathing or Meditation. Anyone can do deep breathing or meditation exercises, even if you aren’t a regular yogi. Simply close your eyes or turn away from your desk for a few minutes and clear your mind as best as you can. A helpful tool to clear your mind is to think about something that makes you happy and calms you, like standing by the ocean or looking out from a mountaintop.

Be sure to focus on your breathing. Imagine slowly filling up your body with air, and then slowly releasing it.

2. Listen to Some Relaxing Music. Create a playlist with songs that help to calm your nerves, whether that is soft, classical music; nature sounds; or even rock. Find the genre of tunes that helps to release some of that tension you’re experiencing and take a few minutes to really focus in on the music. According to a study by the Department of Psychology at McGill University in Montreal, music can have numerous effects on the brain, including lowering stress and anxiety levels.1

3. Change Your Environment. If you’re truly having a mental block, one of the best ways to relieve your stress is to step away from your desk and change your environment. On our busiest days, we tend to tell ourselves, “You don’t have time to step away right now.” However, you might be surprised at how a quick break refreshes your view on the task and vastly improves your efficiency.

Clear your mind by going for a ten minute walk around the office and think about something other than the task at hand. See if a coworker has a few minutes to spare to walk with you and choose a topic to discuss outside of what’s going on at work.

Relieving Stress After Work

When you’re finished up at the office and are feeling strained from the busy day, exercise or any form of physical activity is proven to relieve stress. In addition, make sure you’re getting enough quality sleep, saving time for the things you enjoy, and steering clear of fast food and other unhealthy options.

Certain kinds of foods interact differently with the chemicals in our brain, impacting serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine, and others. That’s one of the many reasons why it is important to get a variety of carbohydrates, proteins, and healthy fats throughout the day.2 So, even though it might seem inconsequential when you pull through the drive-thru for a quick bite to eat after your long work day, you may actually be affecting your health and mental well-being for the days to come.

Take Time to Unplug on Vacation

man working on computer at the pool

Once you finally land in paradise (or wherever your vacation may take you), focus on using this time to unplug and recharge. Taking a much-needed break from your normal work routine allows your mind to relax, which results in you returning to work feeling much more creative, refreshed, and motivated.

If you need to pack your laptop, leave it in your suitcase when possible and avoid checking emails or other correspondence on your cell phone. Having the constant reminder that there is work waiting back at home won’t help to relieve those everyday stressors. There are, of course, emergencies and situations in the workplace when your colleagues might need to reach you, but other than those urgent scenarios, try your best to detach from your electronics.

Another way to reduce the notifications piling up in your inbox is to set an automatic response for your colleagues and business partners. Most email platforms have this option available in the account settings. In the away message, share the dates when you will be out of the office and whom to contact in your absence. If your job relies heavily on communication over the phone, change your voicemail to include a similar away message.

What if you’re Covering Someone Else’s Vacation?

Summer is one of the busiest times of the year for employee vacations, with the kids being out of school and warmer weather across the country. Chances are, once you return from your vacation, you’ll not only be playing catch up on the work from while you were out, but you’ll also be preparing for your colleague to clock out for his or her vacation, too.

The best way to prepare is to simply stay organized. In addition to your to-do list with dates on when your tasks need to be completed, keep a to-do list for what needs accomplished while your co-worker is out of the office. Write down any questions that you have and schedule a meeting or two before he or she leaves for vacation. This will help to make sure you have all of the necessary details for the projects you are temporarily taking over.

Lastly, remember to keep that vacation state of mind for as long as possible. The calm, relaxed, and energized feelings that you bring back to the office after your getaway will have quite an impact on your productivity levels, as well as an impact on those around you.


1 The neurochemistry of music. Last Updated April 2013. Accessed February 23, 2018.

2 Food and Your Mood: Nutrition and Mental Health. Accessed February 23, 2018.

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