If you already feel yourself succumbing to the winter blues, maybe it’s time for a vacation. Or perhaps just scheduling one is enough to take yourself out of crisis mode and settle back into plain old depression, which may be a little easier to tolerate.
But what if lifting your mood was as easy as taking more vacations? Could you do it? Would you? If the answer is no, you may be overlooking some very important factors for your general mental health and well-being. Sadly, you’re one of millions who has a difficult time breaking away from responsibilities---not just work, but family, including children and elderly parents who need us around.
According to Psychology Today, Americans work more than anyone else and therefore collectively suffer from “vacation deficit disorder.”
It may sound funny, but it’s no joke. The U.S. is also, according to the online report, the only country that does not mandate paid vacation leave. It makes me wonder where we’ve gone wrong as a people. Are we all fine with being a bunch of workaholics, who keep forging ahead until we drop in our tracks? The physical exhaustion and mental illness weighing in the balance must not be enough to warrant a revolt.
Typically, the average American vacation is equivalent to a long weekend. This year, the story is even sadder, as a recent survey discovered one in seven Americans taking no vacation.
The problem, as Psychology Today sees it, is that without vacation our brains don’t rest, our senses don’t recover from burnout and rejuvenation is relegated to the hours between the end of the workday and the morning, and weekends, of course, provided you don’t work then too.
Joe Robinson, the author of a book called “Work to Live: The Guide to Getting a Life,” says we need two weeks to combat burnout. And doesn’t it stand to reason that we would be a much healthier nation with fewer trips to the doctor, less stress, anxiety and depression? And more happiness?
If you truly don’t have the luxury of enough time to take off and see the world, at least take time during your day to stop working and refresh your mental outlook with a change of scenery. You may also choose to engage in certain activities that allow a vacation-like experience without having to go far.
Here are some things to try:
- Get on your bike and go. Breathing fresh air, even if it’s right in your own neighborhood, is rejuvenating and restorative. The motion is both relaxing, yet stimulating and certainly vacation-like.
- Take a walk without your cell phone. You may walk all the time, but leaving your cell phone home (or at least in the car) is key to experiencing the kind of separation vacation offers.
- Take yourself out for lunch to a place you’ve never been. Assuming you don’t do this every day, going out for a delicious meal is vacation-like.
- Go to the movies smack in the middle of the day. There’s something really fun about going to the movies in the afternoon when you might otherwise be working. The movie all by itself is like going on a quick trip, but going in the afternoon is special.
- Let the music play (with your imagination). Lie down with your headphones in your ears, an eye mask to block out any light, and your favorite mind-altering music and float away.
- Find a restorative stretch class that will rejuvenate you and trick your body and your brain into thinking you’re on vacation.
- Get an aromatherapy massage.
- Get your hair done, or some other beauty treatment that will make you feel pampered.
- Go to a local museum or visit a local spot you’ve never explored as if you were a tourist.
- Read an exciting book for one hour, if that’s long enough to carry you away from whatever is causing you stress or mental fatigue.