How to Vacation Mindfully

By Vanessa Kensing, LMSW

With summer rapidly approaching, I hope you have some vacations or staycations planned! Time for relaxation, recuperation, and fun are an important part of mental health balance and stability! However, to allow yourself to relax, recoup, and enjoy, one must focus on the internal self (thoughts, expectations, and intentions). This is easier said that done! Below I explore what made me realize that I wasn’t vacationing in a way the worked for me, and the steps I’ve taken to be more mindful in this process. 

A few years ago I went to London with two close friends from college. We had studied abroad together ten years earlier and it was a sort of reunion trip. In the months leading up to the trip my excitement grew, but so did my anxiety. I wanted "to get the most out of the experience,"  “to not miss a thing," and “everyone to be happy."  This thinking led to me scheduling almost every seven days of our trip down to the minute. We definitely saw a lot and truly enjoyed our time together, but by the end I felt like I needed a vacation from my vacation! 

In the four years since our trip to London I’ve reflected upon that experience over and over again. It is hard to break thought and behavioral patterns, so changing the way I spend my downtime has taken time and effort. Below are some helpful ways to assess your thoughts and begin to change the way you think and engage in vacation time: 

Checking in on thoughts during the planning process.
If you are planning a trip or even some time home, begin to check in on your thoughts about the planning process. Are you planning a trip/time that reflects you and your needs? Are you planning what you like doing or what others think you should do or expect you to do? Are you over planning or under planning?  Are you thinking in extreme ways (This has to happen, I can't miss this, I should do everything)?

Checking in on your thoughts while you are there. 
Whether you are traveling or doing a staycation, while you are in it, check in on your intentions and expectations. Are you following through on setting a balanced routine and/or schedule for yourself? Are you present while you engage in activities and downtime? Have you set unrealistic expectations that need to be altered? 

Checking in on your thoughts after. 
There will be things that went as planned, went wrong, or went unexpectedly. As you reflect upon your trip or find yourself telling friends and family about your experiences, check in to see how you are framing it! Are you focusing on the negative? Are you learning from the experience? Are you finding space for gratitude and joy?

Lastly, a note about "checking in." As you ask yourself any of the many questions mentioned above, please attend to asking yourself these questions in a nonjudgmental and nurturing way. These questions are meant to help you be more present and enjoy your experience, not to criticize yourself! Using compassion for yourself as a framework allows for there to be change! 

Vanessa Kensing is a therapist at Cobb Psychotherapy. If you would like support in prioritizing and taking care of your mental health, contact Cobb Psychotherapy and see how therapy can help.