Why You Need a Vacation—Especially If You Don’t Think You Do

Suitcases stacked by window showing airplane in skyIf you’re like me, you think the idea of relaxing sounds boring and unproductive. At the same time, if you’re like me, you envy those who can sit still and be in the moment. Or, worse, you fantasize about vacations and beaches, only to find when you have “downtime” you squander it by being busy.

I have changed my mind-set after spending seven days—my first week-long vacation in five years—lounging in Mexico. What I’ve learned has been invaluable, and I hope you’ll consider the possibility of a vacation for yourself.

I’ve always been a huge proponent of slowing down and taking time for self-care. I was better at giving the prescription than taking it, however. As a “type A” personality, I am a doer, a workhorse. I am also a therapist who realizes that without breaks, I will become ineffectual and burned out. I take regular, small breaks weekly, but I’ve always resisted an extended break because I’ve been afraid of leaving the people I work with in the therapy room, spending money, and irrationally thinking I was wasting time. However, my fears were holding me back from the ability to slow down, relax, enjoy the moment, and be mindful in the peace of a stress-free day.

Maybe you want to go to the beach and lounge. Maybe it’s the mountains and hike. Whatever your preferred vacation is, don’t wait until you are already burned out. It is a gift to yourself to be able to reconnect with a peaceful you, a joy-finding you, a laugh-at-yourself you. A sampling of things I learned from a week-long vacation are:

  • Go far away—you won’t be able to come back early.
  • If possible, go somewhere where there’s no wi-fi or cell service. You cannot believe how liberating this is. To not answer every email, not check social media, and not answer professional calls is a luxury. If you’ve set it up so someone is able to do that for you while you’re away, you will not regret it.
  • Act like a kid. Play in the sand, find a ladybug, body surf, find a cool shell in the waves. The art and process of wondering and exploring cannot be overlooked. It is simply refreshing and life-affirming.
  • Breathe in the sun and the air. If you live in a colder climate and travel when it’s winter, you may need to be mindful and meditative about your surroundings so you can fully appreciate their benefits. Several times, I expressed gratitude toward the sun’s warmth on my face and took deep breaths to smell and experience the salty air. This exercise heightens the senses and creates a sense of appreciation that can be revisited and used as a stress management tool when you’re back home.
  • Bored is good. To be bored is not the worst thing in the world. In fact, it allows for your mind to expand and gather new ideas and thoughts. The openness that boredom brings can solve problems, create connections of thoughts, and generate creativity. Boredom is not bad.
  • The world did not end because I went on vacation.
  • Vacations are necessary for stress management and anxiety reduction.
  • I will schedule more vacations at regular intervals.
  • I needed this vacation more than I realized.

Now I understand how prolonged stress and anxiety, in the absence of vacation, can create a false sense of strength and stamina. The busier we become, the more we think we can do. We think we don’t “need” a break from our busy lives, but we may be wrong. Vacations are an excellent tool for self-care and preservation given the demanding lives we lead.

© Copyright 2016 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Angela Avery, MA, LLPC, NCC, GoodTherapy.org Topic Expert Contributor

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • Leave a Comment
  • Julie

    April 25th, 2016 at 7:18 AM

    I know that I need a vacation but I have no $$. I am thinking that this year will just be one of those where I take the time off but just have to stay around the house.

  • jaxon

    April 25th, 2016 at 11:15 AM

    I am pretty sure that my partner thinks that he will not have a job when he returns from vacation because he believes ( sometimes rightly so) that he is the most competent person in his office. I understand that sometimes when you get back form vacation it can be tough catching up on everything but he doesn’t give any thought to how that impacts the rest of the family when he simply refuses to go anywhere with us because of the time that he then has to take off work.

  • Janet P

    April 25th, 2016 at 11:56 PM

    I will be in Mexico in 5 weeks. .

  • NanaJ

    April 26th, 2016 at 8:20 AM

    But you know what? There are still those employers who make you feel so guilty for needing to take some time off, even though if you have the time to take then legally you are entitled to it

  • helene

    April 26th, 2016 at 10:23 AM

    It is a chance for rejuvenation that most if us never have the time for in our day to day lives. Why is it that we never can seem to make the time for these things that ultimately will be so good for us but we seem to think that they will be bad if we take advantage of it?

    I personally want to savor my life, not dread having to get up every day and do the same old thing. So instead of focusing on the day to day, which is still a necessity for most of us, I would prefer to look at it as a means to an end. I work to pay for my travel, so I do end up getting something out of it instead of just the daily grind.

  • Lawson

    April 27th, 2016 at 8:01 AM

    Because if I don’t have a little get away soon I’m potentially going to lose it?

  • Rayna

    April 28th, 2016 at 7:40 AM

    I once was the person who thought that the world and especially my co workers would fall apart if I was not there. I know what an ego right? But I did, I thought that the office rose and fell aorund me. I am happy to say that I have grown out of some of that, mostly because I had some coworkers put me in my place. Not pleasant, but had to be done. So I have given up those delusions of grandeur that I once had and if I have the time to take, then I am taking it off.

  • TESS

    April 29th, 2016 at 10:31 AM

    we all need to recharge our batteries every now and then!

  • mary

    April 30th, 2016 at 9:28 AM

    I am not too sure that I will ever convince my husband of this. The kids and i for years now have gone on vacation without him because if we waited for a time when he said he could take off from work then we would all be waiting forever. Oh well, it’s just not to be our family thing to do together I guess. We just won’t have those memories of shared vacations that other families have.

  • Luke Y

    December 19th, 2016 at 5:35 AM

    Vacations are definitely important in managing one’s stress and anxiety levels. I think that everyone should have two weeks off every year. I recommend visiting a new place as well. Sometimes finding that place where no one knows you is the best way to get the space you need.

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