If you’re anything like me, time has been a very weird thing lately. The days go by slowly, but seem to blur together at the same time. Suddenly it’s the end of summer, and the dates for my planned trips (which were both canceled) had come and gone. Just because flying isn’t a great idea right now, doesn’t mean that we can’t have any vacations. Today I’d like to share some thoughts about the importance of taking a break.
This applies to pretty much any time, but it’s especially important when we’re going through something stressful. In this case, we’re in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, and various other issues that we won’t get into here.
Maybe you’re looking for some ideas for getting away from home (responsibly and safely, of course). Or maybe you want to stay at home but still feel like you’re taking a vacation. I have some ideas about the benefits of taking a break, how to actually take one, and how to deal with the shock of coming back to your daily life. For all my highly sensitive friends out there, I also have some tips on how to make your vacation truly relaxing.
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A disclaimer about safety and privilege
Everyone’s situation is so different, especially right now. I can’t begin to cover all of the possibilities of varying restrictions and scenarios, so I won’t try to. What might be okay in one place may get you punished or fined somewhere else. Above all, I encourage you to make safe choices. Please try your best not to do anything that you will regret or that will put yourself or anyone else in danger.
I am clearly not an expert at how to handle existing during a global pandemic (most people aren’t), and I won’t pretend to be. The purpose of this post is not to encourage reckless or risky behavior. I also understand that even being able to take a vacation this year is an enormous privilege. I’m so grateful to still have a job and the ability to take a paid day off. Not everyone has that luxury, and I am well aware of that.
With that being said, I am just trying to share my experience. I took a small, socially-distanced weekend trip. Of course, the safest choice would have been to not take a vacation at all. I’m not telling you the safest way to take a trip because I don’t know the right way to do everything. What I would like to do is to provide some suggestions for ways that you might be able to take a break in your own life, and why that may be beneficial.
Basically, I want to share how I spent my little vacation, and I don’t want to be a dick about it. If you think that this will be upsetting for you in any way, please stop reading now. The last thing that I want to do is make anyone feel bad.
Now that that’s out of the way, here are some thoughts about the importance of taking a break.
The benefits of taking a break
There has been plenty written about why taking a break is a good thing, but it’s an order of magnitude more important when there’s any kind of crisis going on. We can only work and hustle and listen to an endless stream of bad news for so long.
Stepping away also gives your mind a break from whatever work you were doing, whether it was creative or technical or any other kind of work. You’ll be able to focus better when you get back, and maybe even have new ideas or inspiration or solutions for a problem.
Some peace and quiet
Maybe not literal quiet, but hopefully some mental quiet time. Use your vacation as an opportunity to step away from the news, social media, and anything that feels heavy or draining. It’s good to stay informed, but you need boundaries. If I spend too much time reading news, I end up incredibly anxious and unable to function, and that’s not helping anyone.
As much as you can, unplug from all news streams. It will be there when you get back, and the mental clarity is so valuable. If you need to keep a consistent social media presence for whatever reason, try scheduling your posts so you won’t have to worry about them.
Reinvent your routine
Routines are important (I would be so lost without my routines), but it’s good to let go of them every once in a while. You may realize that some part of your routine was unhealthy or unsustainable. Stepping away allows you to re-evaluate and decide if there are some changes you’d like to make.
For example, I’ve had a habit of watching YouTube videos right until I go to bed. I’d finish my last video for the night and then try to fall asleep immediately. Sometimes I’d be so tired that it wasn’t a problem, but it still wasn’t ideal. The cabin I stayed in over the weekend had slow enough internet that watching videos was not enjoyable. Who wants to wait for their video to buffer every few minutes?
So instead I spent the hour before bed reading. Sure, it requires a little more brainpower, but I definitely slept better. Since then, I’ve been making an effort to choose reading at night, even though it’s tempting to go right back to my old ways. Maybe a break can help you switch up your routines too!
A good thing on the calendar
A designated break or vacation gives you something to look forward to, and the feeling of anticipating something good is hard to come by right now. It always cheers me up when there’s some fun thing that I’m counting down the days for.
The pandemic clearly threw a wrench in most of the good things that I was anticipating, so it was really nice to have something fun on the horizon again. It doesn’t have to be big, either. I only took one day off, but it was enough to make it an exciting weekend.
But the fun doesn’t stop there! Hopefully, the break or trip or whatever is a good one, and you’ll have a lot of great memories for later. Maybe even write down all of the fun things that you did. If you hit another rough patch and don’t have anything good to anticipate, you can pull out those notes and remember the happy experiences.
How to take a break
Now that you’ve decided to take a vacation, what do you do? There were obvious answers before, but things are probably going to look a bit different for a while.
Try new things
If you’re creative, this can be a chance to try new things. Get takeout from a new restaurant, or try cooking a new recipe. During our weekend trip, my boyfriend and I made it a point to get food from local restaurants instead of eating at the same chains that we have at home.
You can make this anything you want. Watch a new show, read a new book, or get supplies and try a craft or hobby that you’ve always wanted to try. I brought two books with me, Yes Please by Amy Poehler and A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor by Hank Green, and I recommend both! New experiences help to ground us in the present. When you’re concentrating all your attention on something new, there’s no room to be worried about other things.
Go somewhere (Maybe, but probably not.)
It’s hard for me to not regret and worry about the choice I made to travel somewhere for vacation. But it’s done now and I’ll have to live with the consequences. Because of that, I don’t feel comfortable recommending that anyone take an actual trip somewhere if it’s not for some necessary reason. Based on where you live, it may not even be possible to travel.
Instead, try to find a way to take an at-home vacation. If you really must go somewhere, maybe take a trip to a cabin, a vacation property, or some rental location where you’re sure you’ll be able to stay a safe distance away from others. Again, I am not an expert on this, and I encourage you to do your own research. Being well prepared and informed is a good thing.
Spend quality time with the people you love. That includes yourself! I’ve never tried it, but I think a solo vacation could be a really powerful thing.
This works well with a break from the news and social media. When time being face-to-face with people is limited, it makes the time you can spend with someone extra special. Have a night with no phones allowed. Start a conversation and really listen to each other. Be present and be grateful!
A new kind of vacation
Maybe we need to rethink what a vacation looks like. Instead of a weekend trip or a week-long break, maybe it could be a series of smaller things. Do one vacation-y thing every night, or plan out a Saturday of fun activities. This is what I’ll be doing any time I want to take a break in the foreseeable future. Even after being almost exclusively at home with my boyfriend for going on five months, there are still new things for us to do.
I think our next ‘vacation-type activity’ might be something like spending the weekend playing a new video game together or maybe driving to some spot in nature where we’d be able to have a picnic and a nice walk. I also really want to get the cards against humanity game and figure out some way to play that with two people. We may have to make our own rules, but it seems like a lot of fun.
Redefining our vacations is an opportunity to prioritize more fun things in our day to day lives, and get used to making time for things that bring us joy. You don’t have to be out of town to relax or give yourself a break!
A highly sensitive vacation
Highly sensitive people are deeply affected by their surroundings. Generally, we prefer calm and familiar environments. That is not a very thorough explanation, I’ll admit, but it makes a point about what constitutes a good vacation for a highly sensitive person. If you want a vacation to actually be relaxing and not another source of stress, it helps to keep your sensitivity in mind.
Most importantly, your break should include activities that are recharging and restorative for you. You probably know what your favorite activities are already, so do those things, and any self-care that feels good. I’ve shared some self-care ideas in case you want to try something new.
A much-needed break
Life has been hard for everyone, but highly sensitive people are more likely to be deeply affected by changes in routine, environment, and life situations. I definitely take on and feel other people’s pain when I hear about it, and I’m sure I’m not alone in that. It’s really hard not to empathize, and then let those difficult emotions affect you, even if there’s nothing you can do to fix the situation.
I’m saying it again because I think it’s so helpful to step away for a bit. That doesn’t mean that you should give up on caring about other people, but everyone has a breaking point. If you take some time for yourself, you’ll be more relaxed and better able to offer your unique strengths.
Vacationing with others
Don’t worry about what a vacation ‘should look like’ or what other people want to do for fun. Really. Don’t let those expectations dictate how you spend your relaxation time. Everyone has an ideal level of stimulation, and you’ll have a lot more fun if your activities are within that ideal zone.
If you’re vacationing with a group, there are probably some high-energy or athletic things that other people will want to do. And that’s fine, they should enjoy those things!
Don’t feel pressured into participating in things that you really don’t want to do. Instead, use that time to read, journal, take a walk, or even just meditate and practice being present with your surroundings. If you’re anything like me, you’ll enjoy that a lot more than any over-stimulating tourist attraction.
How to come back from a break
So you go on your vacation and have a good time, and then what? It can be hard to not get freaked out about going back to all the responsibilities. You might even get anxious at the thought of having to unpause and go back to a busy schedule again.
I felt that way the last night of my trip, dreading going back to the work I didn’t finish before I left and all the things I would have to deal with once I got home. That massive pile of laundry wasn’t going to clean itself!
Have a plan
Try to ease back into everything, if you can. On the day you come home, just focus on what actually needs to be done. This will be different for everyone, but try to prioritize. Don’t unpack right away if that’s too overwhelming. Just do what you need to do, and give yourself some time to deal with the rest.
For me, the sooner that everything is back in its place, the better. I don’t want any piles or bags of stuff to look at. But I try to make it fun. I put on a YouTube video or some music, and just keep going until it’s all put away.
The last thing that I want to do when I come home is to feel overwhelmed and immediately undo all of the good relaxing that I had done on vacation. Maybe it sounds silly, but I really try to choose love over fear. There are a lot of places in my life where this is applicable, and it applies here too.
Rather than fearing that I’ll be too stressed and not able to handle all of the things again, I’m choosing to love my life and the things I do. Or at least I’m trying to see the bright side. Sure, work sucks sometimes, but I am grateful to have a job that pays me so that I am able to take fun vacations. Sometimes I think it’s a matter of perspective and deciding what to focus on.
It’s easy to get wrapped up in the idea of wanting a vacation to last forever, but nothing is permanent. Carry the good memories with you, but also look for the good in your everyday life. Focusing on love and gratitude can help you appreciate the present moment, instead of just counting down the days until your next trip. Because as we’ve all learned this year, those plans can always change.
It was actually nice to be somewhere with slow internet for a bit. Well, it wasn’t nice at first. But once I accepted that watching Netflix was going to be more frustrating than entertaining, it gave me the space to do other things. I read more. My boyfriend and I talked more and laughed at the game shows on cable tv, which is an experience that we don’t usually pay for.
I sat on our balcony and watched the boats go by on the river. I sat and really noticed the weather and how the sun and humidity felt on my skin. Being in nature, or even just in a change of scenery, can be super grounding if you just take the time to pay attention.
And it’s also nice to be back. We have our fast internet, and of course Timmy and Tommy’s adorable faces. It’s going to feel like my alarm is going off too early tomorrow, and it’ll be back to the old grind. But I’d like to think that work will go better and that chores won’t seem quite as chore-like. I want to carry that view of the peaceful river with me, as a reminder that it’s okay to slow down and take a break.
How do you take a break from your everyday routine? What are your favorite vacation activities? Let me know by leaving a comment!