If you have the opportunity to get out of the house and get away this summer, hopefully, it is a time to rest, relax and refresh. But inflation, airline cancellations, and soaring fuel costs have the potential to heap more anxiety on us just when we were looking forward to a break from the stress of life!
We have put together a list of handy tips that can help you destress your summer plans, so you can have a well-deserved time of renewal.
Step 1: Take a Little Time to Prepare
A few weeks before your getaway make a list of tasks you want to finish before you leave. Each day try to cross one task off the list. Need a pet sitter? Have a report to finish for work? Need to find someone who will check the mail? The more we take off of our plate ahead of time the more we can truly relax and savor every moment of our time away. The only baggage we should bring with us on our journey should contain our Hawaiian shirts and flip-flops, not our worries!
Step 2: Make Your Well-Being the Priority
Many times we are tempted to think that the grander our vacation plan, the more fun it will be. In reality, that is almost never true. Taking a 10-hour flight in order to spend a week squeezing a visit to every landmark and tourist trap in Rome may sound like a fantastic adventure, but perhaps a short train ride to the beautiful beaches of San Clemente may hit the spot and allow for a more restful experience. The money saved by purchasing a $20-$30 train ticket instead of spending hundreds on an expensive, stressful flight may lower your stress level and free up some of your travel budget for a relaxing beachside meal. Maybe a low-cost museum is a better choice for your well-being than an overpriced theme park or a picnic in a park of more value than waiting in line at a crowded dining hot spot. Whatever your plan, focus on the activities that bring you joy, and don’t worry about the “things you’re supposed to do” on vacation. It’s your time – create an experience that enhances your life, not one that zaps your wallet or your energy!
Step 3: Have a Plan for Delays
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, nearly 20% of all flights in 2022 are delayed. It’s important to think ahead about how you will deal with this possibility before it happens. An hour flight delay could turn into an impromptu family game time with a deck of Uno cards and a little forethought. Or, if you’re traveling alone, maybe it’s a great opportunity for listening to that podcast you’ve been thinking about checking out or starting in on a gripping novel. When we have a plan for unexpected events, it takes a lot of the fear and stress out of the travel experience. Some seasoned travelers are even known to show up early to the airport just to have some extra time to check out the shops or walk back and forth between gates to squeeze in a little exercise before a flight.
Step 4: Avoid Overscheduling
We want to go, do and see everything when we’re on vacation. Unfortunately, this can really up our stress level if we try to see and do it all. Note a few highlights of sites or activities that are important, but only a few! Leave lots of room for a leisurely breakfast or a bit of afternoon meditation time. Some of the most memorable moments on the road come from spontaneous walks through a new city or casual conversations with fellow travelers. Allow each moment to be experienced for its own value, not rushed to the point where precious moments are missed in the pursuit of a demanding schedule. Most of us have demanding schedules at home. Why would we want one during our time away?
Step 5: Come Home a Day Early
The transition from a life of leisure to the demands of “real life” can be a difficult one. Returning home with a day to readjust gives our minds and bodies a fighting chance to recover and begin to reintegrate into our daily lives. It also gives us a chance to think about what experiences we have had and what lessons we have learned. Did you discover a new interest you had? Did you meet someone who said something thought-provoking? Were there insights you had? Taking a moment to reflect, allows us to appreciate our time away and can often help us find useful tools for coping with our lives at home.
Step 6: Incorporate A Few Mental Health Practices
We often think of therapy as only useful when things go wrong, but vacation is actually the perfect time to get into good mental health habits. Did you learn some coping skills from one of our therapy groups? Did you learn some breathing exercises from our “Healing for Well-Being” webinar series? Or did your therapist recommend journaling your thoughts? Use this away time to practice the skills you need for coping with the stress of life when you return.