Dr. Deb’s Mental Health Vitamin: Maximizing your vacation
By Dr. Deb Wade
GCU Vice President, Counseling and Psychological Services
Have you planned your vacation? As we peel off the days of the calendar approaching the days of summer, it seems as if people automatically begin to think of getting away, visiting far-off family, going on an adventure, seeing new sights or perhaps just chilling out at home.
If that is you, you also might find yourself counting down days until that final page of the calendar can be ripped off and it is FINALLY vacation time!
It has been proved over and over that when one takes a vacation – timeout from the routine, the workload, the expectations (internally and externally), the stuffy cubicle – s/he can return refreshed, re-energized, renewed and rejuvenated.
But, before that outcome, what must WE first overcome? Let’s examine two options:
- Paralysis by Analysis – Of course, it’s great to plan … but everything in moderation, right? Do you live with someone (or maybe YOU are that someone) who plans so much detail into a vacation and who has inspected, researched, inquired and examined each of those details to such a degree that exhaustion has set in before the vacation even gets started? Whew! Have a plan, but also plan for serendipity. Then, if all details are not as you imagined, you can drop back and punt without fear of a complete wash. Don’t get overloaded and paralyzed by too much planning of the minutiae!
- Last Minute Luck of the Draw – At the other extreme are those folks who want to “fly by the seat of their pants.” (After all, it’s vacation, right?) Unfortunately, when it comes to expecting the best enjoyment possible of the time you have taken away from your job, tasks, routine and regimen, a failure to plan can mean you actually have planned to fail. It’s important to have a “roadmap” of not only your destination but also your expectation! Then, plan accordingly.
Avoiding each of these extremes is important, but more important is what you will pack. Let’s peek inside your luggage:
- 1. Reasonable expectations. To really enjoy yourself, be sure to pack your appropriate expectations. The destination may not actually resemble the colorful and perfect travel brochure because now you are bringing REAL people to it – and those people might display frustration, attitude, irritability, crankiness and impatience, none of which was advertised in your brochure. But, as we know, that’s all part of the human experience, and the best way to prepare – decreasing the chances of an emotional letdown – is to first pack your reasonable expectations.
- 2. “Sunburn” relief. If you find yourself getting annoyed or angry with the lack of harmony, appreciation or cohesiveness of your family members while on the trip, don’t look at them to change. Rather, get some anger relief by cleaning the “filter” you are looking at your family through so that you’re managing your emotions despite the “triggers.” In addition, re-read No. 1, all of which will relieve the “burn” you are feeling.
- 3. Plenty of ChapStick. Have you taken on the role of the drill sergeant? That is, are you the self-appointed party/events planner? If so, you may be tired of talking – and trying to herd the “cattle” to stick to the planned agenda. My encouragement to you? Get your ChapStick for those parched lips that it appears no one else is listening to, relish the chaos and enjoy the ride! You will feel so much better … and once again will be focusing on No. 1 above!
- 4. Clothing (and, of course, matching shoes) for each type of occasion. Because rarely does a vacation turn out EXACTLY as you envisioned, be flexible and prepared to change the course of the plan at the last minute. That means you need to “pack” for unscheduled situations so that you can merely “change clothes” to adapt to the hand you’re dealt. A family member gets sick and has to “sit out,” the family pet has diarrhea, Uncle John reacted to a food allergy or hubby/wife gets moody. Adapt! Merely “change clothes” and be the captain of the new reality!
- 5. Journal. Sometimes, having a journal, jotting down your highs and lows, capturing marker moments and tender memories, and reviewing the blessings that are all around while you are on your vacation will be the most cherished of all the books you own. Don’t leave home without it! You’ll be so glad you captured all those special moments.
So … you’re about to rip off the last page before you and your family/friends, your “framily,” embark on your new adventure! Review the preparation tips – and the packing tips – and have a glorious good time!