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author's profile photo Svea Becker

Holiday season = stress test?

My SAP colleagues in Walldorf and also friends living in this region just finished their Whitsun school holidays. As I live in a different county, Hessen, I am in the “bad position” to have no Whitsun school holidays at all. But, the lucky advantage is that our summer school holidays are starting already end of June… so only one week to go for me. This year, we decided not to travel abroad and enjoy the weather and the region here around my home. As I used to travel much more as of participating in different events spread all over the world, this helps me also to reduce my carbon foot print. But that was not the only reason. Nowadays, the daily life is much more busy than ever. We rush from meeting to meeting, from business trip to business trip, from private activities to official school activities (when you have kids). Even so, right before the vacation, there are so many things need to be done, a lot of closing ceremonies, at school, at kindergarten, at sport clubs or other societies and so many things like “oh yeah, let’s finish this quickly before vacation”… like a stress test. Sometimes I have the feeling it’s hardly manageable. And in these times it’s much more important to stay calm and keep your easiness. Meditation and retreat should be considered and actually, for me, it’s the best way to gain back control.

How are you handling the crazy times before vacation or school holidays start? Maybe there are good ways worth sharing with the community. I am looking forward to them!

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34 Comments

  • Jun 26, 2019 at 06:40 PM

    No comments yet?? :-(

    What the heck...

    With my kids grown and gone I don't have the things at this time of the year you mention to worry about. But Spring in general is a very busy time for me in my avocations and volunteer work. I have had to try to plan better and delegate more. Both challenging tasks for me!

    I had some trips this spring. I've not gotten worried about packing anymore. I've narrowed things down to some critical items. Basically my carry on bag. Computer, charger, cell phone, I-pad, ear buds. And of course passport, tickets, etc. After that, I've just resigned myself to knowing I'll forget to pack something and will just plan on buying it somewhere along the way or doing without. i.e. don't sweat over it.

    We kind of had the same thought process with the kids on vacation years ago. If its forgotten, we'll get it there or do without. Sometimes those things we had to buy while traveling become our favorite things once back home. (It's how I found my favorite shave butter, I just can't get in the US! Feel free to send me some "Rock Face Shave Butter" anytime!!).

    Also, trying to prioritize your "down" time, whatever that might be. As you said meditation and retreat. But it could be the glass of wine before dinner, or the coffee at sunset, or the pint after work. (funny how I'm focused on refreshment). Ok.. maybe its a morning run.

    Especially, if you make time for it regularly. Don't let that be what is squeezed out of your schedule first.

    My two cents.

    Craig

    • Jun 27, 2019 at 06:08 AM

      Thanks, Craig, that helps a lot. I also think that you are at a totally different point of life so it's even better to read your recommendations. It's more or less "to be above such things"... I like it! Will try to keep it in these last days before vacation starts and hopefully also further along ... for my upcoming business trips ;-)

  • Jun 27, 2019 at 04:25 AM

    I have exactly opposite situation when all things done/completed easier before holidays.

    When you know how to prioritize all tasks (yes, both : family + business) it doesn’t really matter how many of them you should complete before your next holidays. Just work on them thinking how perfect will be your holiday break.

    Is this just me? I believe there are people who merge a holiday period with a minimum stress.

    P.S. We have 3 kids and travel together almost every year including 8-14 hours flights.

    • Jun 27, 2019 at 06:14 AM

      Hi Oleg, wow, it sounds like you are really well organized. And traveling with three children on such long flights sounds not easy for me. Well done (on the business and the family), and I hope you will always keep it like that! And safe travels for your next trips! :-)

    • Jun 27, 2019 at 01:24 PM

      Long flights with 3 small kids is an adventure in itself! And then even after you get off the plane there is security and customs and waiting for baggage and transportation. If you can manage all this without getting arrested you can do anything!

  • Jun 28, 2019 at 07:52 AM

    The stress test, for me, are holidays themselves.

    Not my holidays, but the 3 months off kids have from school here in Italy, with parents asking themselves "And now, how do I manage this?".

    So... run to find a summer camp not asking you your limb as payment, go beg grandparents to keep the beasts, split your holidays so parents cover as much as they can the time off.

    • Jun 28, 2019 at 01:25 PM

      Haha, only two months here (in Belgium) but eitherway, the same problems occur here too. Nevertheless, a great time to spend time together if you are lucky enough to take some time off. We have some good public infrastructure and activities, such as community pools, accessible walking trails in the woods and pretty descent cycling roads. So that helps a great deal in keeping my two boys occupied, provided they have some supervision (of ourselves as parents or another familymember) ... Enjoy your summer!

      • Jul 16, 2019 at 05:54 AM

        And only 6 weeks in Germany... but still a challenge for a lot of people. In my case I am lucky to have an all-day care for primary school pupil the last three weeks of summer vacation. But this is really a regional agreement so not everyone is benefinting from it.

        Have a great summer anyway!

        • Jul 17, 2019 at 07:24 AM

          Today I woke up at 6 am, get ready, pick up Marta (she said to greet you :) ), bring her to my parents-in-law (thankfully same village), go back, pick up the little one, bring him to my parents (30 kms from home) and then drive for 40 kms to work.
          I arrived in office at 9 and... I'm already tired O_o

          • Jul 17, 2019 at 09:03 AM

            I am sorry to hear that :-(
            This is really hard and I hope you will get through it and can at least concentrate on your work items...

            But thanks very much for the greetings and say hello to Marta, too. She is such a nice girl :-)

            Sending you a lot of strength and energy from here!

  • Jul 17, 2019 at 02:51 PM

    I sometimes wonder if all the de-stressing of taking a holiday is negated by the extra stress wrapping up work before and then catching up on lost work time after. But, I don't have the issue that others do of managing around kids' school holidays (though I work for a school district!).

    So, I think that holidays and vacations are important, but it's equally important to find ways to manage stress every day. Craig talked about small daily things, perhaps before- or after-work activities, and for me it comes down to exercise, writing, and as much as possible not taking work home with me. I'm not an incessant checker of work email once the business day is done, though I'm still trying to train my boss to rid this bad habit for himself. Sometimes I think we need the same law as France: it's illegal to send email to employees after hours there!

    • Jul 18, 2019 at 03:24 PM

      Serendipitously, this morning on my commute in to work there was a piece on the radio about this very topic, and how Americans tend to not take all the vacation they are due. Americans already usually earn less vacation than workers in many other developed nations, but beyond this, on average they use only 54% (if I remember the stat correctly) of the vacation they do earn, letting the rest "expire." 4% of Americans take NO vacation at all, ever.

      When delving into the reasons for this, there are many, but the one that struck me was managers who give off verbal or non-verbal cues that it's not ok to take vacation. They'll say "Yes, you should take vacation," but when the employee asks, it's somehow never the right time due to workloads or projects.

      Another point raised in the piece was the very thing I said above: people sometimes don't take vacations they have earned because they become too stressed about working extra hours beforehand to get all the work caught up, and then extra hours afterwards to catch up on what was missed.

      • Jul 18, 2019 at 04:34 PM

        As an American, I can confirm...although I would never cite "verbal or non-verbal cues" as the reason. If anything, the managers at SAP are very sincere when urging employees to take vacation.

        To give an example..

        Back in 2011 (long before I took a position with SAP Community), I had surgery in late summer that required three months of short-term disability leave (which does not come out of vacation time). During my annual review at the beginning of 2012, my manager at the time (who is German) asked why I had so much unused vacation time. I said, "Well, I lost three months for my surgery, When I returned in October, I didn't think I should immediately try to use up all of my vacation time by the end of the year."

        Her response? "You really need to take your vacation time."

        I dunno...perhaps it's cultural. Or my own paranoia. I was off last week, and I'm still fretting about what I need to do to catch up.

        I suppose I should relax more, but when I do, I feel like I'm slacking...in fact, what am I doing in Coffee Corner? I gotta get back to work...

        • Jul 18, 2019 at 04:49 PM

          We're pretty good about it, usually, in my organization. We're a school district, after all, so typically with public sector we earn more vacation than most private sector organizations provide (though perhaps only just on par with typical German companies), and, generally, there seems to be strong support for families and all the little things like having to leave early to pick up a kid from lifeguard camp (my boss's excuse today!), etc.

          But, even here, it can get tough. At this moment, one of my direct colleagues is on a handful of politically-sensitive projects, and she has to report to four different project managers, in addition to our regular team manager. Her parents in India are at a point in life where she feels a very urgent need to go see them before it's too late, especially her father who is not in good health, and she has been trying to get there since the spring, but the project managers keep saying "Oh, this is not the right time for the project," and she keeps having to cancel her travel plans. In order to take even a single day off, she has to get all four PMs to agree, and it just never happens (though they seem to have no problem taking days off themselves). Our regular boss is urging her to just go before the summer's out anyway; this is not the kind of regret she's going to want to live with.

          Managers need to lead by example. If the boss never takes vacation, it doesn't matter what they say: employees will see that and interpret it to mean that the unwritten rule is no vacations. If the boss sends emails at 9pm or 4am on a regular basis, or while "on vacation," again employees will see that as meaning they must be "always on," even while sitting on a beach somewhere (with a laptop or a phone).

          • Jul 23, 2019 at 01:22 PM

            That's an excellent point about managers leading by example. And not just when it comes to vacation...when it comes to work/life balance, period.

            To give another example: At a job prior to SAP, I was leaving work one day (at 5 p.m.) and I popped into my boss's office to wish him a good night. He said, "Oh, keeping banker's hours, I see" -- as though doing the occasional 9-to-5 day was the worst crime imaginable.

            But it kinda stuck with me, to the point where I still worry about the length of a workday...and that was almost 20 years ago.

            • Jul 23, 2019 at 02:19 PM

              Yep, I remember those kinds of offhand "jokes," the kind where you're never quite sure just how much of it is a joke, and how much of it represents an actual attitude.

              I have to say, passing the 50 mark had an interesting effect: I ran out of you-know-whats to give for stuff like that. I guess it finally sort of hit me that I'm not a wet-behind-the-ears 20-y.o. greenhorn and there is absolutely no reason why someone in a suit with "C" and "O" in their title should intimidate me in the slightest way. It's really quite liberating.

              Of course, I'm well aware that over-50s who lose their jobs have about the toughest time of all finding new work, due to a very real ageism factor, and perhaps because there are plenty of 30-year-olds who will do the work for less, so maybe I shouldn't feel quite so liberated, just in case my employer decides to liberate me for real.

      • Jul 18, 2019 at 08:35 PM

        Yes. I think because Americans get so little vacation to start with it becomes almost cultural that you don't feel entitled to take it all.

        Most firms start you out with 2 weeks vacation and 10-14 holidays (bank holidays) a year. Most places don't give you the third week until 5 years, a 4th week at either 10 or 15 years. Of course every firm is different and some have gotten better. But really, from the time you are out of University and you are 30-35 years old you only get 2 weeks to work with. Because most people change jobs at least once or twice in that time frame and then you get bumped back to 2 weeks. Some people negotiate an extra week when they get hired. And most union jobs have the vacation specified in the contract so its pretty hard and fast.

        By the time you get 4 and 5 weeks, you are in your mid 40's or 50's. By then, you are so use to having 2 or 3 weeks, it seems kind of wrong to take the extra weeks!!!! You feel like you are cutting class.

        But in the EU, most employees get 6 weeks vacation when they start. So its more engrained into the psyche of the work place.

        Plus, add in the fact that now, so many jobs are contract positions or temp positions. If you don't work, you simply don't get paid. Many people can't afford to take unpaid vacation.

        • Jul 18, 2019 at 08:55 PM

          I feel so spoiled with my public sector job, and then I remind myself that what I have, which is unusual in the US, is what basically everyone has in Europe...

          Hear hear on the contract/temp positions. They've always been around, but now they're more the norm rather than the exception, more prevalent than ever with the "Gig Economy," and the Orwellian aspect to the whole thing is how they're presented as an "advantage" to the employee, as if they put you more "in control" of your fate, and are somehow more hip and cool than a regular salaried position. Maybe that's true if you're a high-priced independent SAP consultant, but it's not so true if your "contract gig" is entering invoices or serving burgers or... wait for it... driving people around in your own vehicle, with no expenses covered and all risk assumed by you, and you depend upon that to put food on the table vs it being a side gig in your spare time.

  • Jul 17, 2019 at 02:55 PM

    I'm off to Florence tomorrow. Just me and my wife. We're ditching the grandson with his parents. No stress really. Yesterday I finished the last task on one project, this morning the last task on my other project.

    I'm glad we married and had kids young. (matt in "smug" mode) :-)

  • Jul 18, 2019 at 10:40 AM

    Quick update on my summer sofar : One of our boys is on a summer camp for 5 days (when older, they go even longer) with a local group much like Boyscouts. He's having the time of his life, and actually : the 'stress' (should I call it that? Maybe it's just "tension" "rows" "yelling" "call for attention") is down tremendously at home since we are only having one kid around! I hadn't realised how easy life 'can be' - not : always is - with one child ... Anybody can relate to that?

    We obviously wouldn't want this to be a permanent thing and it is not that the oldest is more difficult than the other ... but it's nice to have some peace and quiet around the house.

    I'm still at work, but looking forward to my vacation time when we go on some trips with a larger group of familymembers as well as just the four of us.

    Aside from that, summer is our time to do some chores in and around the house, so it's not all fun and games. However, doing those things at a more relaxed pace can be de-stressing as well!

    • Jul 18, 2019 at 01:24 PM

      I completely understand Nic Teunckens the situation with only one child :-)
      Thanks for sharing your plans. I wish you a lot of fun and good progress on the chores.

      Update from me: my children are one week with their grandparents. This is a crazy silent world I am living at the moment... not sure if I really enjoy it ;-) (altough my husband and I are enjoying evening dinner in restaurants instead of home)

    • Jul 23, 2019 at 06:36 PM

      It's often been said you don't really have children until you have more than one!

      We had two but they were almost ten years apart. So we didn't really have it bad with the more than one child thing.

      Craig

  • Jul 19, 2019 at 06:53 PM

    Even in Europe, it can be hard to take vacation. I had one guy who worked for me, who said that he'd just sit at home with his cat if he were on vacation.

    I think he ended up taking it when I did... And came into work anyway... ��

    Last night, beers on the shores of lake Geneva. Tonight, we're in Genoa, Italy. Having had a lovely seafood dinner, as Genoa is famous for. At a sushi restaurant...

    We paddled in the Mediterranean Sea. The drive over the alps was amazing. We took the pass instead of the tunnel. 2500m up.

    • Jul 20, 2019 at 06:33 PM

      Now in Tuscany. The restaurant is closed today, but the hotel owner made us pizzas. And then the balloon pilot invited us to dinner with his family. That's the pilot we're meeting at 5am tomorrow for our balloon ride....

    • Jul 22, 2019 at 08:08 AM

      C'mon! Sushi in Genoa?!

      You had to try the past with pesto sauce and the schiacciata and the focaccia with their local fish!

      • Jul 22, 2019 at 12:20 PM

        I think we were in the wrong part - we were just doing an overnight stay. It was the only restaurant in the area that looked safe and was open in the ridiculously early time we Swiss residents normally eat!

        It was excellent sushi.

        We survived the ballon ride. Not much wind - until we came in for a bumpy landing of course! Had a Tuscan meal last night. Pretty good. Then, when we were completely stuffed... she brought biscuits and liquour... It was tough, but somehow we managed it.

        Today we're staying in a wonderful (air-conditioned - it's REALLY hot here) apartment, in an historic building, right in the centre of the old part of Florence. If anyone wants a recommendation for a place to say - just ask! The owner let us in 3 hours earlier than normal, and brought a bottle of wine for us... and the inevitable Tuscan biscuits.

        We're here for three nights, then we head home, staying overnight at Bergamo, and meeting with someone on this very conversation... now, who could that be? :-D

        • Jul 22, 2019 at 01:15 PM

          Matthew, I hope you enjoy Florence as much as we did! Fabulous city!

        • Jul 22, 2019 at 03:00 PM

          Cantucci (the biscuits) and Vinsanto (holy wine, the same kind used in the mass): you cannot refuse it!

          You should try Lampredotto, a kind of "sandwich" with... well, i'll let you discover :)

          And keep some space free for Bergamo's specialities: you'll roll down the Venetian Walls after the dinner!

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