Three steps to creating your holiday pause

Rachael O'Meara
Rachael O'Meara, leadership coach and book author, on how to switch off on holiday 

Rachael O’Meara, transformation leadership and executive coach, and author of the book Pause, on how to switch off and enjoy a quality break – even without going away

Have you ever found yourself anticipating joy and fun for an upcoming holiday trip, only to find yourself pre-occupied with thoughts or issues before jetting off? The entire trip seems like a blur and you realize you are no more rested or refreshed than before you left.

Despite our best efforts, it is all too easy to feel shortchanged after a holiday, usually because we spend more time planning what to do (“see this”, “visit that”, “spend time with x”) versus little to no planning on the quality of how we want to experience and feel during our time away.

The good news is that with a few minor tweaks you can set yourself up for a blockbuster holiday by strategizing how and what you plan in three simple steps:

Step 1: Create your vision

What’s your vision for your well-earned time away? Vision comes from a place of possibilities and openness. It’s not about sticking to the same old. Envision your quality of life as the person you want to be. Use the first person. Keep it simple. It can be one sentence you can orient to in any moment on your holiday. It could be “I enjoy myself” or “I disconnect and recharge” or “I feel relaxed and find the joy in any moment.” Write it down on a piece of paper. Create a vision for your family or the group you are with.

Step 2: Set your intention

If vision is orienting you to how you want to be on the trip, setting the intention is the how of your holiday pause. It is an easy way to tap into what you really want, adds meaning, and helps you focus on a specific outcome. Ask yourself, “What do I want to get out of this moment, meal, or [insert what your activity is]?”


  1. Pick a word for the day. One couple I know took turns each day picking a word of the day such as “play,” “connect” and even “intention” to focus on.
  2. Take time to think about how you came to plan a meaningful holiday pause. Was it reading this article? Was it allowing yourself a few minutes to be and not do?
  3. Have a morning ritual you practice that describes the quality of your experience.

Step 3: Create your holiday pause plan

It’s important to know how you want to spend your holiday time. It doesn’t need to be detailed. Instead, it’s ok to be vague and open. This could be writing about your ideal holiday – your vision, intention and actions you will take to get there. Be careful if you notice you start planning to do so much that it may not be realistic. Aim for a balance of BEING and DOING. This is an opportunity to change your routine of what you typically do and the quality of how you do it. One fun way to do this is to write a letter to yourself from your inner voice on what you will experience as a result of this trip. Or imagine you are a dear friend writing what he or she recommends for your time away. What is the quality of your experiences? How will your life be different as a result of your holiday pause?

Additional tips for a blockbuster holiday

  • Create boundaries. Create a few rules you want to have for structure and/or behaviours you want to create.
  • Savour the really good stuff. When good things happen, don’t just take a selfie and move on. Stop and savour how you feel.
  • Create new habits you can take home. Keep the holiday alive long after you return home by creating an IF/THEN statement that can help you do something different. For example, IF I think about work, THEN I will pause for three deep belly breaths.

Rejuvenate without going anywhere

You don’t need to go anywhere. Take a day, weekend, or week off and stay exactly where you are and notice the quality of what you do. You may surprise yourself how things change with a few mindset tweaks to notice quality. 

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