Will you go away this month? A vacation sounds like paradise: toes in sand, book in hand. But poor planning can get in the way of relaxation so your head’s back at home and your smartphone never leaves your hand. Instead of spending your getaway fretting, follow this plan to beat vacation stress.
Before you leave
1. Decide what kind of vacation you want
Therapist Lori Kay recommends figuring out what type of vacationer you are and what type of vacation you want. Do you like the structure of tours and sightseeing, or would you rather lie by the pool? Plan a holiday that will recharge you, not increase your stress.
2. Have a 21-day countdown
Kay advises her clients to plan everything 21 days before leaving on vacation, including scheduling when to put “out of office” messages on voicemail and email. To minimize messages you have to deal with when you return, let your major contacts know you’re going away.
3. Have a wind-up day
Leave your last day of work free for the “oops, I forgot” things. Don’t use the last day to madly try to finish a project or you’ll increase your stress level.
4. Set a predetermined work time
Many of us check emails while on vacation. If you have to remain somewhat accessible while on vacation, Kay recommends setting a one-hour work period at the beginning of the day, say from 9 to 10 am.
5. Give yourself a breather
Allow yourself a day to get ready before you leave on vacation. Leave on Sunday instead of Saturday so you have time to sleep in and pack.
6. Start your day in a relaxed state
Begin your day by meditating or do some deep breathing to calm and center yourself. Don’t set an alarm clock; wake up when your body is rested and ready to get up.
7. Don’t overschedule activities
Rather than visiting six museums, schedule trips to three or four museums and plan some downtime in between visits. Avoid the stress of trying to see everything—it’s just not possible.
8. Be in the moment
Despite your best-laid plans, if you start to feel stressed, Kay advises you stop. Look around at your surroundings and consciously enjoy them. Work will still be there, but you’ll never experience this moment again.
9. Come home a day or two early
Return on a Friday or Saturday if you’re returning to work on Monday morning. Allow yourself a day to unpack and readjust to your everyday life. Don’t set yourself up to be stressed when you get back.
10. Make your first day back a catch-up day
Plan to catch up on email and return phone messages your first day back. Allow yourself time to get back into the swing of things.