"How was your vacation?" I asked my friend who had just returned from a beach holiday.
"Now I really need a vacation." she sighed. "It was exhausting to get ready, the kids fought while we were there, and now it's overwhelming to be home."
Yep. I've been there. When you consider the Herculean effort to get away, the unpredictable stresses of travel, and the post-vacation blues, you have to wonder if it's even worth the trouble!
But before you stress your next vacation, try these six tips. Whether you're camping two towns over or you're flying to the other side of the globe, these guidelines will allow you to have the trip of a lifetime.
Before you go:
Photographs - Use pictures of your destination to really psych yourself up. If it's a place you've visited before, flip through images of your last trip. Start to build anticipation and excitement by dreaming about the place you're about to go. The expectation of a vacation is often more fun than the actual event!
Breathe - As you're packing, take time for conscious, intentional breathing. A deep, low belly breath with a long exhalation causes you to relax by stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system. Try inhaling for the count of 5, holding for the count of 5, and exhaling for the count of 5. As I explain in Shortcuts to Inner Peace, a deep breath is an instant stress buster. So before you pack those toiletries, breathe.
During your vacation:
Trip motto - Come up with a trip motto that you can refer to every day. Try something upbeat like, "Every day is a fresh experience" or "Everything is part of the adventure." You can also recite a private motto such as, "This too shall pass." Get the kids on board with a fun family motto, like, "The Jones family has a good time no matter what," or "The Smith family says 'yes' to fun."
Unplug - Although this is tough in our culture, try traveling without being accessible. You can't really refuel and rest if you're still 'on call.' Leave your life behind so that you truly get a break. Don't check your emails or post on Facebook. No laptops on the beach! No cell phones at the amusement park. No texting in the campground. At a minimum, if you must touch base, then set strict time limits on all technology. Let your vacation take you away from it all.
When it's all over:
Take it Slow - Upon your return, you will be barraged by a mountain of emails, snail mail, voice messages, errands, and laundry. Expect it and pace yourself. You might leave the unpacking for a few days later. Take your time getting back to people. Have patience with the process and let a few things slide as you slowly get back up to speed.
Gratitude - Gratitude is a fast track to happiness. When you're feeling sad that your vacation is over, list 3 things from the trip for which you're grateful. Next, list 3 reasons why you're happy to be back. If you've traveled with family, share your top memories from the trip at the dinner table. Saturate yourself with gratitude whether it's for the trip being over (!) or for all the great memories.
These ideas will make your trip fun and memorable (in a good way!) And once you return, you can start planning your next get away.
Follow Ashley Davis Bush, LCSW on Twitter: www.twitter.com/AshleyDavisBush