“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?
- Missed flights
- Taking antsy children through long airport security lines
- Driving in crowded unfamiliar cities
- Noisy hotel rooms
- Rushing to “see it all”
- “Are we there yet?” repeated over and over
- Siblings fighting
- Being away from family and friends
- Disorientation being in unfamiliar places
- 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.