Guest Post: Why Using Your Vacation Days Is Important For Mental Health / by Henry Moore

DSCF8947-2.jpg

Being stuck at your job week after week can get you down. Seeing those same people, staring at the same computer screen, working on the same boring projects can feel like you’re on the world’s longest treadmill with no way to jump off.

That’s why vacation days are so important. Use them! It’s time to start planning a vacation, not just because it would be fun (though, it would) but also because it’s important to your mental health. Your body and your brain need a break from the constant grind you suffer daily.

Just being in a new location, a new climate or visiting family and friends can boost your mood tremendously. Even planning a vacation has positive effects on mood, a 2002 study showed. And sometimes, the stress relief is not just about going to a place, but getting out. Being physically removed from a stressful location enhances a sense of well-being, a 2013 study showed.

Those in addiction recovery and seeking treatment can also benefit from travel. Taking the time to focus on yourself is a huge hurdle when going through recovery -- we aren’t taught that being selfish is OK. But spending some time relaxing, getting out of your own head and seeing the world can do you more good than you can imagine.

However, going on vacation doesn’t automatically mean you’ll come back feeling renewed. Sometimes vacations themselves can cause stress, which means you’ll come back home feeling even worse than before. There are ways to avoid that pitfall.

●      Give yourself a mental break -- Switch off that part of your brain that’s always thinking about work. That doesn’t mean you can’t spend some time reflecting about things, such as what’s working and what’s not. But you need to allow your brain to relax a bit and focus on your vacation.

●      Relax -- Not all vacations include chilling at a spa and lying on the beach. But you can still take some time to relax, even if you’re trying to visit every art gallery in Paris. Relax your body as well as your mind. Spend some time enjoying the moment.

●      Learn -- For people who are more active, learning might be a good way to refresh. Spend some time participating in a sport or learning a craft. Even taking tours and learning the history and culture of a destination can help recharge your brain.

●      Be social -- Connections matter. If you’re visiting friends or family, spend quality time with them. If you’re not visiting, meet new people in your destination. Get to know one another -- it’s good for your soul.

●      Be helpful -- Volunteering to help someone else can be a great way to recharge yourself. Some people go on volunteer missions for vacation. If that’s not your style, just spend a day of your trip helping someone else -- working on a farm, helping those less fortunate or helping your grandma bake for the family. Putting your efforts to the benefit of someone else reminds you of your worth and place in the world.

●      Enjoy the planning -- But don’t overschedule. Planning and anticipation of a trip will give you something to look forward to while you chug away at work in the months leading up to your trip. But understand that you will not likely get to see everything your destination has to offer, and if you aren’t ready for that, you’ll be disappointed. Make a list of Must-Sees and Would-like-to-Sees. If you have extra time, you might be able to squeeze in an item you didn’t prioritize.

Whatever kind of vacation you take, remember that the point is to recharge so that you can face your responsibilities back home with renewed vigor. Keeping that goal in mind will help you choose the best vacation for you.

*This was a guest post by Henry Moore. To view more of his work, check out his website FitWellTraveler.