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Aug. 9, 2010
Summer vacations can be a cure for decreased productivity. Still skeptical? Kristine Hodsdon offers tips on what to do with all of that togetherness during a vacation.

Above, Megan Berry, Jacqueline Berry, Catherine Hodsdon, John Hodsdon, and Lauren Berry

We are winding down from the peak vacation season. I will share some tips as to what to do with all that “family” togetherness later in the article. First, I know many hygienists who still work virtually every waking moment, with little opportunity for them to get a nutritious meal or enjoy a workout (two ingredients that can help boost productivity), so it’s no surprise that our profession is plagued by the epidemic of burnout.

Being overworked impedes the ability to get sufficient sleep. According to William Dement, a scientist, “Sleep deprivation is now the most common brain impairment.” Hence, when work impedes sleep, the unintended consequence is reduced performance.

Personal lives also suffer from work-life imbalance. Feeling depressed is now so common that the World Health Organization finds depression to be a leading cause of disability. Anti-depressants are now the most common drug prescription. Since psychological well-being is a good predictor of productivity, lack of work-life balance is clearly counter-productive in the long-term.

Yet, some will argue, that summer vacations are even more stressful and not worth the hassle. Family vacations can be difficult — interminable plane trips, hotel rooms or lake cabins that smell funky, exhausting hours together in the car, siblings or a parent who argues, and/or six straight days of camping in the rain.

On the other hand, family vacations can be the best thing since summer was invented — exploring new places together, sharing time, and goofing-off for days at a stretch, and meeting new people or reuniting with loving relatives.

So how can you turn a summer vacations with the family from the worst of times into the best of times?
I’m not entirely sure. Yet for what they are worth, here are my insights.

1. First of all, watch out for great expectations — the kids’ as well as your own. Enjoy the surprise of the vacation as it unfolds. This doesn’t mean don’t make plans. After all, we are hygienists; that’s what we do, make plans. Include everyone in the planning. Share where you will be staying, Google the attractions, ask for input into the shopping list, and/or speak to people who may be familiar with the area. Build the excitement, yet don’t over-promise only to under-deliver.

2. Allow plenty of time; don’t crowd too much into the trip. If you’re traveling with young children or toddlers, take short jumps instead of long leaps. If you’re driving, stop often, get out and stretch, move around and/or decide to split the long ride and stay over in a hotel/ campsite. It adds an unexpected adventure.

3. Keep it simple. Don’t schedule so many activities that there’s no time for just hanging out. Build in rest-time too. Tempers have a tendency to flare when everyone’s packed together day and night for long stretches of time. Create alone time, for you and the children. What about an adult night? Everyone needs recharging. Remember, both boredom and over-stimulation can result in acting out. Strive for balance and flexibility.

4. Take lots of photos of the vacation activities, family, time with friends that we savor, and give thanks for that time in our lives (hint: The art of savoring works much better if you actually download the pictures and/or print them out vs. keeping them in your digital camera). Many viewers have Facebook accounts; post photo albums to share your moments and memories. Not a picture taker? I strongly urge you to become one, now, or at least before your next vacation. The technology is easy, but, in truth, seizing precious moments is hard. Our memories are fickle.

And lastly, be sure and allow a day or two for re-entry before you go back to work and the children return to their summer routine. Coming home can be as stressful as leaving. Make homecoming part of the vacation, too.

Kristine Hodsdon,
Director, RDH eVillage