Vacations: Stress-reducer or stress-inducer?

“You need a vacation!” is common advice readily given to people who are stressed-out.

What most people may not be aware of is that vacations can be INCREDIBLY STRESSFUL! They certainly are not always the peaceful fix-all that you might believe. What types of things might be stressful?

  1. Missed flights
  2. Taking antsy children through long airport security lines
  3. Driving in crowded unfamiliar cities
  4. Noisy hotel rooms
  5. Rushing to “see it all”
  6. “Are we there yet?” repeated over and over
  7. Siblings fighting
  8. Being away from family and friends
  9. Disorientation being in unfamiliar places
  10. Spending large amounts of hard-earned money

Given that many people in the United States only get two weeks off a year, there is incredible pressure to make that time really count. You can get exhausted by trying too hard to have a great vacation!

So what are some things you can do to have a stress-reducing versus stress-inducing vacation?

  • Decide that the goal of your trip is to reduce stress and plan accordingly.
  • Honestly review your past vacations—what was relaxing for you and what was stressful?
  • Plan your trip to minimize things that were stressful in the past and maximize things that were stress reducing.
  • Consider a “stay-cation” if that is your idea of relaxation. Vacations where you stay at home can be more cost-effective and can allow greater time with family, friends, and favorite local activities. Only do this, however, if you can put aside home-based stressful activities such as certain chores, work-related tasks, etc.
  • Lower your vacation goals. Don’t see everything! Set one or two flexible goals each day and don’t beat yourself up if just staying at the hotel and watching a movie for an afternoon feels relaxing.
  • Continue to exercise and eat relatively healthy while away.
  • Do things that YOU want to do, at least some of the time, and not just what the kids demand.
  • Consider a vacation without your family. You could even switch-off with your partner. Go to a spa, retreat, or visit a cherished friend or family member. Do something for yourself!
  • Take some time for quiet reflection while away. Spend a couple of hours (or more) coming up with a stress-management plan that you intend to implement when you return from your vacation. Then follow-through!

Are you stressed-out and due for a vacation? Plan to make your vacation stress-reducing and not stress-inducing!

Eric Goodman, Ph.D.

coastalcenter.org