Vacations: Essential for good mental health


The Spanish Peaks - one of my favorite vacation views.

We’re year two into a pandemic, and our new “normal” is here. While we may be accustomed to the idea of what has happened, the collective trauma of our experiences is present.


Feelings of burnout, stress, anxiety, and depression are still at an all-time high for many of us. Working from home (or living at work, as I’ve heard many clients call it), not getting to work enough, layoffs, interviews, prices climbing – the stressors of the present are piling up.


Taking a vacation may feel like it’s completely out of the question with financial concerns or work obligations but planning trips and/or taking a vacation or staycation are vitally important to overall health, resilience, and our ability to keep on keeping on.


Vacations have been linked with increased empathy, attention, energy, and focus (Crowne, 2013). Lower levels of stress are also reported in those who prioritize vacations. Experts tend to agree that work without periods of recuperation or time spent in rewarding activities can contribute to burnout and the development of other mental health disorders.


Some research shows that just planning a trip can be beneficial to us (Kumar, Killingsworth & Gilovich, 2014). Satisfaction we experience from “doing” and experiences is usually higher than the satisfaction we feel from purchasing things, and the same is true for the period before we go off to have our “doing” experience. Simply sitting down with your family to plot out a vacation can bring on the good vacation vibes!


Sunset at Cordova Pass in Southern Colorado.

A staycation can work just as well to get you out of a stress-rut. We’ve come to define “vacation” in a specific way, but some perspective shifts can help loosen up our definitions. Instead of thinking about where you’d like to go, ask yourself what experiences you’d like to have. In our house nothing beauts a warm cup of coffee on a cool morning or a fire on a chilly night, so we pick destinations both nearby and far away that have those opportunities.


A lovely cup of coffee on a cool morning near Cordova Pass in Southern Colorado.

Looking through the lens of experiences you’d like to have can help you look at the environment around you with new eyes. Just down the street may be a state park you know well that may hold new enjoyment when you aim at the “doing” instead of the destination. Staycations can be staying at home, or venturing to a nearby city to a hotel, both often more affordable options than a major travel event.


It's easy to forget about the places nearby that offer up great views, pretty hikes, and other things we love. Copper Breaks is just down the road from my home. Copper Breaks State Park Overlook. Courtesy Texas Parks and Wildlife.

Experiences you want to have may be linked to environment, but if the red rocks of Sedona, Arizona are too far away, you may be able to find similar environments nearer to you. We love spending time in the mountains and have fallen in love with the largest range near us and made it our destination many times.


Near Cordova Pass in Southern Colorado.

If you’re feeling a bit burned out, you’re not alone. Recovering from and preventing burnout takes planning, a willingness to look at what is doable rather than what isn’t, and a reassessment of priorities for most of us, but the gains are worth the efforts.


Some resources:


https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0956797614546556

https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1470595812452633





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For those of you that work with me or have, you already know that I'm a mindfulness practitioner and I bring mindfulness to my work and encourage my clients with the same. Compassion and mindfulness p