Leave it all behind: How to make the most of your annual leave

Here are some tips to maximise your leave entitlements.

Working as a registered nurse for over forty years has been an amazing journey through public and private hospitals, universities, prisons and community clinics. My career has been rewarding, but it’s also been physically and emotionally challenging at times. Compassion overload, shift work, and workplace demands are just a few of the stressors I’ve encountered. Every nurse and midwife could probably list dozens more!

One of the important ways I’ve managed to thrive and survive as a nurse is by carefully planning and optimising my annual leave. Taking a break reduces stress and improves overall wellbeing.

Here are some tips to maximise your leave entitlements:

  • Don’t hoard excess annual leave for the future. I’ve worked with colleagues who haven’t taken holidays for several years. Lack of quality time away from work can take its toll on your mental and physical health.

  • Plan to take shorter breaks throughout the year instead of four or five weeks at once. I’ve had many rich experiences in just a few days either by flying to another state or driving to the coast, bush or mountains. Once I travelled by tram to a beachside suburb and stayed for a couple of days. So relaxing and easy.

  • Take ‘staycations’ at times when your energy or finances are low. Over the years, I’ve booked a hotel in my own city. You can feel like a tourist by filling the days (and nights) with galleries, shows, restaurants, markets, parks, or whatever takes your fancy. A couple of days can seem like a week if they’re well-planned!

  • Plan a day for a massage, facial or spa treatment. It feels like you’ve visited a health retreat. If a friend or family member asks what you want as a gift, consider choosing something luxurious and pampering.

  • On a few occasions, I have travelled overseas for just a couple of weeks. Choose one or two places rather than packing in too many countries. Planning an exotic trip every few years is exciting and offers a complete break from work and routine. Some nurses begin planning their next trip immediately after returning from leave.

  • Choose travel companions wisely. Hopefully, you have similar interests or can compromise to avoid friction and stress. If compromise doesn’t come easily, don’t be afraid to travel alone. You can please yourself and travel at your own pace. I meet and socialise more easily with other travellers when traveling alone, but also enjoy time with partner and/or friends.

  • Research and planning for short or long breaks are vital (via Tripadvisor, Pinterest and travel blogs). I also source colleagues, friends and family for their travel ideas and experiences. One study found that for many people, the planning is the most pleasurable part of the trip!

To get you started, here are some of the holidays we’re dreaming about:

Better get started on those leave applications. Happy travels!