With lockdowns fluctuating across the country and the world, everyone’s looking for the perfect getaway. For many, taking a vacation and a break from quarantine has never looked so good—but how you handle stress matters: a great vacation, or an emotional train wreck? It’s your choice!
Ironically, the reasons for needing time away—feeling rushed, overworked, strained, depleted—makes vacation planning hard work. Travelers often reach their destination frazzled by the sheer stress of getting away from work and landing in that exotic locale.
Manage vacation stress upfront, so you can actually get the mental health break you need during that vacation. Prepare in advance so you can relax when it’s time. Let’s look at seven common vacation pitfalls and how to avoid them.
Mental Health Mistakes: Vacations
- Mistake: Going on a strict diet to get an awesome beach body. Continue the diet through your vacation.
Healthy Option: Don’t add self-loathing and hunger to your current stress load! Forgive yourself for being imperfect, recognize that most people hanging out on the beach do not have a perfect beach body, and invest in swimwear that makes you feel comfortable and confident. Exercise because it’s good for you, but don’t overdo it. You don’t want to show up on your vacation in pain. And please don’t diet on vacation. You will wind up feeling sad and cheated, turning your longed-for holiday into a punishment.
- Mistake: Spend three months reading reviews and driving yourself crazy over what to do.
Healthy Option: It’s good to know what you’re getting into, but reading thousands of online reviews will just eat up your free time and leave you feeling exhausted. Narrow the field by first excluding possibilities by cost from the beginning. Research no more than the top 10 possibilities. Browse through 25 reviews, note the number of stars, then draw your conclusion and move on.
- Mistake: Looking for exactly what you want and settling for nothing less.
Healthy Option: Choose what’s most important to you and let the rest go. Life is imperfect and being on vacation doesn’t change that fact. Choose a vacation spot and activity that fits your values; meat-eaters shouldn’t go to a vegan resort, smokers should avoid non-smoking hotels, and families should look for child-friendly places. At the end of the day, if you can’t be happy without your favorite soap, cigarettes, or music—take it with you.
- Mistake: Spend too much and then spending the next year paying off last year’s vacation.
Healthy Option: If you can be relaxed and in debt, let that green energy flow! But if you’re like most of us, there’s a limit to how far you can rack up the bills before things start getting uncomfortable. Set your budget and let that inform your vacation activities. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that spending a lot of money will guarantee a happy holiday.
- Mistake: Taking a short vacation jam-packed with energy—you come back more exhausted than when you left.
Healthy Option: Traveling takes work: planning, organizing, and then actually going and coming back requires a lot of effort! If you are short on time, consider a staycation. Put a tent in the backyard, BBQ dinner by the pool, check into the local casino resort, or pop open a bottle of wine and binge-watch Friends. Essentially, put your feet up and count all the money you saved in not rushing around the world for three short days. Take that long vacation when you have time to do it right.
- Mistake: Not packing until the night before you leave, then freak out when you leave something important behind.
Healthy Option: Start packing the week before you leave. Buy extras, so you can leave your daily toiletries where they are, and get the rest into a bag. Use a checklist and keep everything together so nothing is missed. Your passport, credit card, toothbrush, glasses, and medicines are the vital elements of any getaway. If you forget something else, don’t worry, it can usually be bought en-route or at your destination.
- Mistake: Fight with your co-vacationer(s). Blame each other when things go wrong.
Healthy Option: We usually go on vacation with people we love. These are the same people who can drive us crazy, especially in unfamiliar or strained circumstances. Don’t let the inevitable travel glitches make you turn on each other. Help each other with the luggage, the kids, and the meltdowns. We all get them at some point.
Make your vacation goal a chance to connect with the people you love, not a chance to climb the biggest mountain. Center your activities on strengthening important relationships, and you’ll come home with something better than curios and knickknacks. In the meantime, you can make your vacation something to remember; not for its little disasters, but for having weathered them with humor, goodwill, and grace.
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