Everyone needs a vacation. That’s why we’re talking about vacation mental health for Mental Health Awareness Month this year.
Vacations are opportunities to create lasting memories with your friends and family, have different experiences and mentally recharge. What many people don’t realize is that vacations can be a major source of stress. The last thing you need is a vacation from your vacation. Here are some tips about how to plan vacation mental health and manage any stress that might come up.
Vacation Mental Health Planning
One of the biggest stressors of life is uncertainty. Not knowing what’s going on, not knowing when and where, and not knowing how much it will cost adds stress. That’s the last thing you want for your vacation mental health. Planning eliminates this stress.
The Right Vacation Location
If you want to relax, maybe don’t go to Vegas. But if you want to party, why go to cottage country? It’s important to know yourself and what you want to get out of the vacation. Don’t just buy a ticket to Bora Bora because everyone says you should. Decide for yourself and plan the trip you want in the place that will give you what you’re looking for.
Choose the Right Vacation Companions
Choosing your vacation companions is the most important decision you can make. Spending so much time together, everyone will show their true colours. Before considering vacationing together, get to know these potential fellow travelers well. You may end up deciding that a solo trip is a better option.
Speak with the people you’re considering traveling with and get to know the kinds of things they want to do while on vacation. If you want to be up at dawn to watch the sunrise on the beach, you probably shouldn’t choose the party animal who wants to shut down the club every night as your travel partner.
Even if you’re married with children, the question might be whether or not to take the children. Traveling with family can be extremely rewarding and definitely creates lasting memories. However, if you and your partner need to reconnect, running after the kids might not allow for the time you need to work on your relationship.
Have a Vacation Budget
You need a time budget and a money budget for your vacation.
Many people underestimate the costs of travel and tend to splurge while on vacation. Worrying about money while you’re trying to relax is counterproductive. Not worrying about money in the moment and then coming back to reality with big credit card bills is going to add a lot of additional stress to your life.
Plan on a vacation that won’t stress your bank account too much. If you’re travelling and constantly worrying about whether you can afford something, you can’t get the most out of your experience. Budgeting before booking can really help you know what you’ll end up spending. It will also give you an idea of how to manage your money while on the go. How high-end of a restaurant can you eat at? What kind of souvenirs and mementos can you get? Can you go on that excursion you want to experience? These are all things you don’t want to think about when you’re trying to relax.
Have a Vacation Itinerary
Knowing when and where will really help reduce stress and improve vacation mental health. Make sure to leave a lot of extra time built in for transit, or to just take a break and smell the flowers.
Some people overschedule (I’m totally guilty of this). Hurry up and go here, take this picture, walk around a little, and then hurry on to the next destination. This is no way to spend your vacation. It’s exhausting. Make sure to take time to relax.
By knowing the people you’re traveling with and their expectations, you can often work together to determine how to plan your time. Often, when travelling with a group, going your separate ways during the day and meeting back at the hotel is a good idea. This allows all of us to get to do what we want to do and to get the downtime we need. It also gives you and your travelling companions opportunities to share your independent experiences.
Schedule Vacation Downtime
You’re going on vacation to relax, not to be run ragged. Make sure you schedule downtime and have a plan for how you’ll spend it. Maybe that involves a book or a nap or just a nice stroll. Everyone is different when it comes to their downtime, but make sure you have some planned.
And it should go without saying to not use your work calendar to plan your vacation. Looking at work stuff while on vacation gets you thinking about work. Vacations are meant to be time away from work.
Plan Your Workload Before Vacation
Before you go, make a plan for work. There’s nothing worse than going on vacation and coming back to a massive pile of work and stress because you had no coverage. This adds stress to your life and really nullifies any stress relief your vacation provides.
Make sure that your contacts know who to speak with in your absence. Make sure that the people who are covering for you know what to do to keep things moving. Having good coverage means not needing to do the work when you get back.
Disconnect on Vacation
Set up a vacation alert a few weeks before your vacation. Then, set-up a vacation autoresponder starting about one week before your vacation. You’d be amazed at how many of your contacts suddenly have an urgent need when they find out you’ll be going on vacation.
Having the vacation alert on well in advance gives them ample notice. It also gives you permission to say no when someone comes to you at the last minute with an urgent need. You’ve told them weeks ago, now they’ll just have to wait.
The best way to make people respect your schedule is silence. Do not respond when you are emailed or called or messaged while on vacation. If you want to, turn off your devices completely or set it up so you get no notifications from work. If you allow people to interrupt your schedule, they always will.
Relax on Vacation
This is the most important thing of any vacation. Switching gears, changing environments or just spicing up day-to-day routines can really impact your mental health. There is a bit of stress from the change, but it helps change your perspective. If you’re successful at this, you’ll return to regular life with increased energy and mental capacity.
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