Summer is a time when many of us look forward to having a vacation. A break from our routine and an opportunity to spend special time with family and friends. A vacation can be an opportunity to enjoy ourselves in a way that isn’t possible during all of the pressures and stress of the main part of the year. However, much like holiday celebrations, and other times when we have breaks in our routine, and more contact with family members, summer vacations can often also be especially challenging from a mental health perspective. 

While the mental health challenges of the holidays are often spoken about, the same is not true of the mental-health challenges of vacations. This leads to people often being taken by surprise and unprepared when the vacation they’ve been looking forward to turns out to be a challenge. So, talking about maintaining your mental well-being while on vacation is a very important issue to think about before your vacation starts. 

Why can vacations be so difficult?

It can feel frustrating that something that is intended to be relaxing and a source of enjoyment can, in fact, turn out to be a source of stress, both for you and also for your relationships. Part of the reason that vacations can be such a challenge is that we have heightened expectations and put more pressure on ourselves to enjoy these times with special intensity. 

So, here are a few suggestions of ways that you can make sure that you get the most enjoyment out of your summer vacation, while also protecting yourself and your mental well-being.

 Number One:  Create Realistic Expectations

 Many people go into a summer vacation with extremely high expectations of how wonderful the experience they are about to have is going to be. And while it is absolutely true that you want to enjoy your summer vacation as much as possible, and you want to take advantage of the opportunity to create memories and special celebrations with the people in your life, it is also very important to have realistic expectations of what those times are going to be like. 

Make sure to remember, that even while you are on vacation, life is still life. Things will go wrong, plans will have to change, people will be hungry, cranky, and conflicts will arise. So, before your vacation begins, take some time. Think in concrete terms about what you expect your vacation to actually be like. This includes anticipating things like waiting in line to have a turn at an amusement park. Or anticipating in advance that there might be a delay or problem with your flight. Thinking realistically about what might go wrong, as well as about what might go right, is a way an important strategy. It’s also a way to ensure that when things do, as they inevitably inevitably will go wrong, you will be ready to roll with the punches, adjust, and to continue on enjoying your vacation. Rather than being dismayed because now something has gone wrong and you’ve been taken by surprise, instead you will see this as an expected bump in the road, and you will know that once you get past it you can return to your enjoyment of your special time.

 Number Two: Sleep and Sustenance

 When we travel, as well as when we spend time with family members who we may not see you as often as we would like, it is often surprisingly difficult to take care of our basic needs as human beings. 

But as much as we might be excited to be in a new place and want to explore, or as excited as we might be to see someone who we don’t get to see very often and want to stay up late to catch up, the truth is that even while you are on vacation your body has basic fundamental and very important needs.Meeting those needs on a regular basis is crucial, and will overall greatly contribute to your enjoyment of your vacation. 

Doing things like ensuring that you eat regularly, and at the food that you eat is food that actually nourishes your body, will make you feel better and then you’ll be better able to enjoy yourself. 

In the same way, making sure that you actually get enough sleep, which can definitely be challenging when traveling when experiencing jet lag or when having to meet a variety of scheduling needs, is still very important. If you are sleep deprived or have been eating food that doesn’t actually meet your nutritional needs, you may not realize the degree to which that will impact your ability to enjoy yourself. But it will.  Being underfed or sleep deprived will also make it more likely that your tolerance for inconveniences, conflict with others, and other problems that might arise will go down. That will make those problems more overwhelming, and more likely to lead to conflict with the people around.

 Number Three:  Be Flexible

 One of the challenges of being on vacation is that you know you have a limited amount of time. There is a pressure that people often feel to get the most enjoyment possible out of that small amount of time. This can lead to people packing their schedules very tight, with plans of all of the different things that they want to accomplish. 

This is especially true if you’re visiting an area that you don’t often get to see, but can also be true in almost any situation. And while it is just fine to be ambitious and to plan the schedule that you would most like to keep while on your vacation, it is very important to be flexible. 

Even when you are on your vacation, you are still going to have needs. So will the other people in your group. People may come down with an illness, or be worn out from traveling. 

The ability to change your plans without becoming overly upset will make your enjoyment of your vacation overall much higher. 

Remember that, when your vacation is over, you will have more overall enjoyment if you were flexible, than you will if you mark every single thing off your list of things to do, but have created a great deal of stress for yourself and the people around you. 

Flexibility and the ability to adjust to surprises is an important skill that will be vital to you in a neighboring you to fully appreciate special times while you travel and why you spend time with the people in your life.

 

 So, when you pack your suitcase make sure to include these three basic mental health skills, so that you can make the most of the vacation time that you have!  Happy travels!