“Summer vacation” when you were a kid was music to your ears. “Summer vacation” as an adult can sound more like a cruel oxymoron — especially when weather and travel are unpredictable, your travel companions are demanding, and inflation makes even a staycation costly.
Still, we’re in the early days of the season, so take a breath and do what you’re supposed to do when you’re away: relax.
It’s entirely possible to take time off without needing a vacation from your vacation. All you have to do is get clear on the pitfalls of R&R and plan accordingly.
The Vacation Situation
After reading the intro to this article, you might be thinking, “What’s she talking about? I’m psyched about my upcoming vacation.” And well you should be, because research shows most of the joy of going on holiday is experienced in anticipation of the trip.
So, that begs the question, why can’t we chill out on vacation? It could be partly because the lead-up is so jam-packed with a million things to do that you’re running on fumes by the time you leave. According to wellness researcher Jessica de Bloom, who has extensively studied the effect of vacations on our health:
Pre-vacation time is often associated with stress… This might be a reason for flu-like symptoms many people experience during the first days of a vacation.
Then, even if you enjoy the time off, there’s the inevitable post-vacation dip, according to psychologist M. Joseph Sirgy:
“When we experience certain highs in life” — like when we have the chance to throw off the shackles of our usual obligations — “this is usually followed by lows.”
All of this information isn’t to put you off of vacationing. It’s just to give you some critical information that can help you maximize its upsides, like adventure, memory-making, and relaxation, and mitigate obstacles to your enjoyment.
Get into Vacation Mode
According to wellness writer Markham Heid, there are several strategies you can use to make your vacation the break you truly need:
- Exercise leading up to the trip to decrease stress and increase your immune function.
- Take control of your plans as much as possible, or at least manage your expectations.
- Find personal meaning in the trip to extend its benefits (i.e., visit a bucket list destination)
- Ditch your digital habits and work routines.
- Return midweek, so you only have a couple of days in the office before a weekend break.
- Organize your vacation photos and videos when you return to relive the best of your trip.
In other words, give your vacation expectations a rest, and ditch the idea that it’s the only way to relax. The best getaways are the ones that give you just enough space to appreciate what you’re returning to.