If 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.
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.