Friday, September 12, 2008

Post Vacation Stress Syndrome

By S. Derrickson Moore
Sun-News reporter
LAS CRUCES — I should have gotten a clue years ago, when I did a story on Holmes-Rahe Life Changes Scale, also known as the Holmes Stress Scale, which postulates that changes and life events can adversely impact your health. The Holmes-Rahe Scale ranges from 100 points for death of a spouse to 11 points for “minor violations of the law,” and 12 points for “Christmas alone.”
There are some whopping stress totals for events most people would think of us happy happenings such as marriage (50 points) and retirement (45), including two categories that used to surprise me: “change in recreation” (19) and vacation (13).
When you add recreation and vacation to something most of us do on vacation, like experience a change of eating habits (15), you can get a whopping 47 points right away.
Hmm. If the vacation is a honeymoon, you could conclude that getting hitched and celebrating it with a vacation is almost as stressful as losing a spouse, something to ponder.
But now, I’d like to talk about vacations and a syndrome I am identifying as PVSD or Post Vacation Stress Disorder.
I haven’t worked out a point system yet. But I have noticed, now that I am up to a whopping four weeks of vacation a year, that there are several stressful elements involved.
Planning a vacation is a lot like planning a conventional news story. Both involve the Five Ws: who, where, what, when and why, plus a great big great H, for “how.”
Many employers, including mine, put a lot of pressure on you to declare the “when” as soon as possible, preferably several months or even a year in advance. But a lot of that is contingent on the “who” element, and many of us have several people to consider in our plans, from the colleagues whose workloads will be impacted by out absence to the friends and relatives we hope to vacation with or visit. Then we have to consider where we want to go or meet with others and what we want to do.
Then there are all the hows: how to get there, how to make all the transportation and lodging arrangements, how to get all our work done in advance or arrange for others to take care of things, and how to fit everything we need for skiing, snowboarding, rock climbing, horseback riding, art exhibitions, nights on the town and more ... all in one suitcase or carry-on luggage, or the trunk of a car, or a backpack or the back of a yak, depending on mode of transportation.
Then you have to tackle vacation communication issues, which should rate at least 50 stress points, I decided on my last excursion.
I’ve long maintained that being completely out of touch could become the ultimate luxury in the new millennium. I struggled to keep up with my e-mail at antique computers and confusing office centers and in-room keyboards at various resorts and B & Bs. I realized I was wasting precious vacation hours grappling with unfamiliar systems. But the alternative is to pack your own laptop and worry about losing it or compulsively working ... or to return to face several zillion e-mails and many disgruntled souls who wonder why you ignored their urgent messages.
You probably couldn’t explain, because your cell phone wasn’t working in several remote areas you frequented.
In the end, we worked it all out. I’m almost over the malady I caught on the plane home, so I think I can weather the stress of the unexpected bills from the emergency ward visit, the humongous cell phone roaming charges, the whopping credit card bills and all the other little surprises.
The PVST stress point total and other costs? Quite a lot.
Getting away from the salt mines for two whole weeks and spending time in beautiful places with people I love and miss? Priceless.
S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at dmoore@lcsun-news.com

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