The Optimus blog

The blog that inspires leaders in the UK education sector

Alex Masters

Why this summer holiday is more important than you think

It’s holiday time! Drawing on famous wisdom and modern day research, we show you why reaching for that hammock and pina colada is more critical than ever

Gone are the days when ‘summer holiday’ meant sitting on a bus with Cliff Richard with a quality quiff and a cheesy smile. Sadly, for many, the long vacation just means more time to catch up on work and reply to those endless emails.

Indeed, recent research shows that a whopping 60% of us still reply to work emails during our holidays. Sound familiar? It may feel like you’re being productive but in fact you could be doing yourself some serious damage.

From famous quotes to modern-day research, we show you why you really need to reach for the deckchair rather than your desktop.

1.‘If you have no time to rest, it’s exactly the right time.’

Mark Twain (author)

‘I haven’t got time!’ This has to be the most common refrain amongst everyone we’ve spoken to in the education sector (and beyond). Indeed, time does seem to be the enemy for us all. What better way to solve this problem than by using all those days off to catch up, right? Wrong. The minute you find yourself saying this during the summer break, that is exactly the signal that you need to stop and switch off.

Holidays are essential for recharging. In fact, returning to work tired and cranky will just slow you down and (ironically) waste time. In the worst case scenario, it could eventually lead to burn out – then you’ll be forced to take more time off just to recover.


2.‘Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes… including you.’

Anne Lamott (author)

What is it about computers, mobile phones and TV sets that whenever they break down, turning them off and on again nearly always seems to fix them? The same applies to us. Sometimes we just need to ‘switch off’ and step away. It’s this action of removal that helps us solve our problems and allows the subconscious to kick in.

Don’t believe us? Here comes the scientific bit: a report from PNAS on ‘mind wandering’ found that so-called ‘neural recruitment’ (i.e. coming up with great new ideas) was strongest ‘when subjects were unaware of their own mind wandering’. In other words, you will most certainly solve all your trickiest problems when you’re on the beach/playing golf/chatting with your family and not consciously thinking about them!


3.‘Let her sleep for when she wakes she will move mountains.’

Napoleon Bonaparte (military leader)

Better still, use your well-earned holiday to get some kip! We all know the phrase ‘sleep on it’ and now it’s been scientifically proven that sleep actually helps you solve problems. According to research from the University of California, rapid eye movement (REM) in sleep can enhance creative problem-solving.

And for those who feel that ‘sleeping’s cheating’, sleep is critical for your health. While the likes of Margaret Thatcher have claimed they only needed four hours’ sleep a night, most scientists agree that the average person needs around 7-9 hours’ sleep. According to the Sleep Foundation, too little sleep over several nights leaves you tired, unable to concentrate, depressed, anxious and, eventually, if it continues, at an increased risk of diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity.

So take this chance to get the sleep your body so craves… and you’ll wake up healthier, happier and with solutions to those problems that have been niggling you for weeks.


4.‘A little nonsense now and then, is cherished by the wisest men.’

Roald Dahl (author)

We’ve all heard the phrase ‘laughter is the best medicine’ and it’s really true! Canadian researchers have found that humour plays an important role in healthcare that can’t be overlooked. Laughter has also been shown to benefit circulation, lungs and muscles and helps people deal with pain and adversity.

So use the holidays to enjoy a bit of nonsense and alleviate your stress. Think about the best jokes that you can share with your friends and family. If you want some inspiration, check out these amusing exam answers!

Question: Where was the American Declaration of Independence signed?

Answer: At the bottom.

Question: What ended in 1896?

Answer: 1895.

Question: What is the strongest force on earth?

Answer: Love.

Question: Name this quadrilateral.

Answer: Bob.

Question: Write an example of risk.

Answer: This.

Question: Explain the phrase ‘free press.’

Answer: When your mum irons trousers for you.


5.‘Your calm mind is the ultimate weapon against your challenges. So relax.’

Bryant McGill (author)

Unfortunately, no one can escape the challenges and stresses that life throws at us. What’s important is how we react to them. A holiday is the perfect opportunity to tap back into your inner calm, so you can return to work feeling ready to take on whatever new challenge comes your way.

And, of course, there’s the scientific evidence to support this. When the body is under stress it moves into survival mode (or ‘fight or flight syndrome’) and overproduces the stress hormone cortisol. This cortisol goes to the brain and causes a slow-down in the process of the pre-frontal cortex – where you think critically. As a result, panic makes you behave emotionally rather than logically.

A great way to get in touch with your inner calm is meditation. Do check out the popular site headspace which shows you simply and effectively how to meditate.


6.‘Time you enjoy wasting is not wasting time.’

Marthe Troly-Curtin (author)

Stop feeling guilty! Just because you are not working does not mean you’re wasting time. Indeed (and sorry to get a bit morbid here) but the impact of working too hard can be profound: I was very moved to read a report about the top five regrets of the dying and the fact that one of the most common was: ‘I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.’ Certainly hard work is a wonderful and rewarding thing, but don’t let it eclipse the other important things in your life.


7.‘No man is a failure who is enjoying life.’

William Faulkner

Remember as well that you are a role model in school, to the pupils and to other staff. You need to be a living example of the importance of wellbeing.

Working hard is one thing but being able to enjoy work and rest is the biggest achievement of all.




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