Vacations are a time to mentally escape the stresses of day-to-day life. Yet, as hard as we try to leave our worries and job responsibilities behind, they still find a way into our thoughts.
While you may be used to compulsively checking your inbox (you’re not alone!) this is an opportunity to take a step back, relax, and recharge. In order to do this, you’ll need to connect to the present and enjoy the moment fully.
As many of us take off on August vacations to fully immerse ourselves in the final, we spoke to several mental health experts for tips to become more mindful:
Give yourself permission to relax and unwind
Many of us are conditioned to work. When we are not working, we may feel anxious, as though we should be doing something else. That "something" will be there when we get back.
“Giving ourselves permission to not think about work and simply be fully present can help get out of that mindset,” says Jason Drake, LCSW-S, BCN, Lead Clinician and Owner of Katy Teen and Family Counseling. “The short period of time that we are on vacation will pass in a blink of an eye. Give yourself permission to be fully present during this short period of time.”
Take enough vacation days to allow yourself to be fully present
It can often take a day or two to get out of "work mode" and into "vacation mode." And toward the end of your vacation, it can be common that a day or two before your vacation ends, your mind starts to get back into work mode.
“Taking a week's vacation may mean that out of those seven days, your mind shifts into vacation mode for only three to five of those vacation days,” Drake explains. “This may be enough for some. For others, a two-week vacation allows for 10-12 days where your mind can shift to vacation mode and you can be fully present during those days.”
You have vacation days for a reason. Take them!
“Your mental health will be better for it which will positively impact many other aspects of your life,” Drake adds.
Start your morning with movement. Moving your body promotes confidence and calmness to take with you throughout the day.
“Whether you walk, practice yoga, or exercise at the gym, you will gain peace of mind indulging throughout the day, knowing that you worked out. Working out also boosts our endorphins, giving us more energy, helping ease our minds, and rejuvenating our bodies,” says Erin Miller, psychotherapist.
Miller recommends downloading a free meditation app like Insight Timer and search whatever type of meditation you seek, whether 5 minutes of guided imagery or 45 minutes of breathwork.
If you want to go tech-free, the good news is you do not need an app to meditate! “Find a comfortable spot for stillness and focus your mind on one object or thought, Miller explains. “Through this practice, you train your mind to be more present and aware, leading to a more stable and emotionally calm mindset.”
Bring a journal with you on your trip and designate a time (ideally at night) to write three things you are grateful for that day. Studies show that people who practice gratitude are happier, healthier, and less stressed overall.
“Inviting attention to what we are thankful for generates more positive things to happen to us and for us,” Miller states.
This is a fun one! Each night at dinner, invite those you are with, or if alone, reflect inwardly about the good (highs) and the bad (lows) that happened that day.
“The significant rule with high-low is that while everyone must have at least one ‘high,’ they do not need any ‘lows’. Through this activity, we are making space to appreciate the positive things that we are experiencing on our vacation,” says Miller.
Designate a certain amount of time each day to disconnect from your devices. “Vacation presents a unique opportunity to disconnect from our cellphones and laptops, and we should take advantage of this time,” Miller explains. “By getting a break from our devices, we can reconnect with our surroundings, loved ones, and ourselves.”
Search for something new
Many of us head to our favorite vacation places year after year and we can fall into a rut eating at the same place and doing the same activities.
“It's understandable because they are our favorites, but aim for one new activity during the trip, or even smaller new activities each day,” says Dr. Natalie Bernstein, psychologist and life coach. “Mix it up a little to feel more strongly connected to ‘this’ trip, rather than the usual.”
Dr. Bernstein recommends looking at the landscapes and notice how different they are from home. Are you in front of the ocean? Hear it, really listen to how it sounds without your radio. How are the trees different? Are the flowers the same? Even the architecture of the houses can be enough to bring you into the moment of your experience.
See experiences through the eyes of a child
Yes, you’ve seen the beach before, but what does it look like to a five-year-old? If you're traveling with one, “have them describe what they see, what they feel. It enriches the environment when you see it from the perspective of someone new,” Dr. Bernstein states.
Most importantly, have fun. Vacations are meant to be enjoyed so stay connected to the present moment and take it all in.
How do you stay mindful on vacation? Share your thoughts in the comments below! And while you're at it, make sure to subscribe to Silk + Sonder today.