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Five Ways to Make the Most of your Vacation
When we think of vacation, we usually think of a time to sit back, relax, and unwind from the world of work and everyday schedules. Vacation gets us out from behind our desks or away from the repetitive, physical strain of our jobs. It also offers an opportunity to heal and rejuvenate our minds.
There’s plenty of research that shows the positive effects that a vacation has on mental health. Here are five ways you can use vacation to improve your wellbeing, whether you choose to travel or take a “stay-cation.”
- A time out from stress. Almost everyone is running at full speed these days, and our schedules are packed to the max. If you feel a need to wind down and relax, be sure to schedule down time during your days off. Some people tend to pack too much activity and adventure into a vacation. Instead of feeling refreshed afterwards, you wind up feeling rushed during your vacation and fatigued when it ends! Be sure to fit in some unscheduled time. If your vacation means staying home, don’t let your to-do list occupy too many of those precious hours off.
- Strengthen personal relationships. Maybe you haven’t had any time to see close friends lately or have a relaxed meal with your spouse. Taking time off from work gives you the opportunity to rebuild relationships that have been on the back burner. Making and strengthening personal relationships is a critical part of feeling balanced emotionally and warding off feelings of isolation. Try to dedicate some time during your break to renew connections with the special people in your life.
- Try new things. We can get stuck in a rut in our everyday lives – eating in the same places, driving the same routes. Vacation is an opportunity to shake things up. Trying new things may improve confidence, mood, and your powers of observation. We can become a bit oblivious when stuck in our routines, but new experiences help us engage our attention and use all our senses to observe the details in our environment. If you travel, go outside your comfort zone and try something from which you might usually shy away. If you stay home, explore a neighborhood you’ve overlooked, a local park you’ve never visited, or a new recipe. If you make an effort to try new things while on vacation, you’re likely to carry some of that adventurousness and attention to detail with you when you return to work.
- Improve your sleep. Good sleep is essential to a healthy mind. It improves focus, mood, and creativity. Sometimes, our busy work lives chip away at sleep. We might stay up late to finish work or feel anxious about having to get up early, anticipating the sound of the alarm. Our tendency on vacation is to sleep in, which feels great, but can lead to a later bedtime. Try to go to bed at a regular hour (ideally between 9:00 and 11:00 p.m.) while on vacation. If you get several nights of quality sleep when you don’t have to worry about what’s left undone at work or that you have to be up in just a few hours, it could help you to “reboot” your sleep cycle. Good sleep begets good sleep. Not only will you feel rested when you return to work, but you may also actually fall and stay asleep more easily.
- Try to unplug. In today’s hurried, technology-reliant world, we can sometimes forget that life is happening around us. Whenever possible, try to be present wherever you are and enjoy the moment. Stop checking your email and social media accounts for a while. Forget about creating the perfect picture for Instagram, or making sure to check-in on Facebook. Just enjoy and experience all your vacation has to offer. Life looks so much better when it’s viewed with your eyes rather than through a smartphone.
As you get ready for a much-needed vacation this summer, remember a getaway isn’t just about being away from work, it’s also about revitalizing your mind. From everyone here at Newport Hospital, we hope you have a terrific time!
Elizabeth S. Niemiec M.D.
Dr. Elizabeth Niemiec is a psychiatrist and the medical director for the Adult Partial Hospitalization Program at Newport Hospital.
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