health : You’re Vacationing All Wrong. Here’s How to Have a Truly Restful Break

Wednesday 12 June 2024 10:46 PM

Nafeza 2 world - Travel can do wonders for your well-being. “Experiencing awe, going to novel places, engaging your creative mind, being in nature, and spending time with family and friends are all things that we know can increase well-being and even reduce stress,” says Stephanie Preston, a professor of psychology at the University of Michigan.

But those perks aren’t a given. As anyone who’s dealt with intrusive work emails or an overly ambitious itinerary can attest, it’s possible to arrive back home from a trip feeling more stressed than you were before you left. 

Keeping certain tips in mind as you plan and set out will help you better reap the benefits of travel.

Take a few short trips instead of one long one

Because the positive effects of traveling fade about a month after you return home—and because the planning process can make you happier than the trip itself—traveling more often could be key to improving mental health, says Laurence Chan, instructor of medical psychology at Columbia University. That means taking a few smaller trips may be better than taking one big trip, he says.

It may also be easier to fit into a busy life. “If someone is taking a longer vacation, there could also be a logistical limitation to disconnecting, and someone could be more likely to engage in work spillover tasks—like attending a ‘can’t-miss’ meeting or conference call,” he says. 

Temporarily delete or mute apps 

It’s hard, but put your phone away as much as possible—and consider deleting your work email app or social media apps while you’re gone. One 2016 study linked spending less time on one’s phone to a more relaxing vacation. 

“I think social media in general is hard to disconnect from,” says Dr. Paul Nestadt, a psychiatrist and director of the Johns Hopkins Anxiety Disorders Clinic. “It can be anxiety-provoking to keep doomscrolling.” He adds that some of his patients actually feel more anxiety from disconnecting entirely, so be mindful of your personality and what suits you best. 

If you’re particularly addicted to your phone, Preston recommends choosing a vacation destination that has limited internet access, such as a camping spot in the mountains. 

Have a loose plan

If you’re aiming for a relaxing getaway, you shouldn’t overschedule yourself. But don’t underschedule yourself either, says Henley Vazquez, co-founder of the travel agency Fora. 

“There can be the impulse to figure it out when you’re there,” she says. But faced with an empty agenda,  “we end up defaulting to checking our phones.” 

Vazquez says a good rule of thumb is to plan a half-day’s worth of activities every day. Consider also preparing a list of restaurants you’d like to try in advance so you don’t succumb to stressfully surfing Yelp from your hotel room.  

Put down your camera

While it might be tempting to take photos throughout your trip, consider occasionally leaving your camera or phone in your bag and simply enjoying the present moment. “I think it has become almost an impulse to experience your own trip through your social sharing rather than to just experience it on the ground,” Vazquez says.

Instead of snapping photos for Instagram, work on savoring your scenic hike, relaxing boat ride, or joy-filled family dinner. “No matter which activities you engage in, I think it’s important to do them fully,” Chan says. “If you’re going to be walking, just walk. If you’re going to be exploring the sites, just take them in.”

Work ahead

It might seem like a counterintuitive way to tamp down stress, but try to do extra work before you leave for your trip, Nestadt says. If you don’t, you risk feeling even more overwhelmed when you return home. “That can kind of delete or overwrite the beneficial effects you would’ve had from the trip,” he says. 

Cut your trip a day short

Even though you might dream of spending 10 days sunbathing and swimming in Hawaii, nine would be better if it means you have a day of rest and recovery between your vacation and returning to work or school. 

“If part of the reason you’re taking the vacation is because you need a break, then building a buffer [day] in really allows the recuperation that you’re able to achieve on vacation to last,” Nestadt says. An extra day at home is especially helpful if your trip involves jet lag, Preston adds.

Go for a hike or swim

One study found that when people exercise on vacation—regardless of whether they do at home—they had improved sleep, heart rates, and well-being. Although a run on the hotel gym’s treadmill is good, it’s even better to break a sweat in nature, as exercising outdoors can lower anxiety and stress.

Choose a sun-drenched spot

Regular exposure to sunlight has countless benefits for physical and mental health. It can improve sleep, strengthen the immune system, release mood-boosting serotonin, increase vitamin D stores, and lower blood pressure. One study found that people experienced more health benefits from their vacation when they were in a sunny locale rather than an overcast one. If you’re torn between Seattle and San Diego for your next jaunt, for example, you might feel happier and more relaxed if you choose the latter. 

Consider your travel companions

You might think traveling with anyone will be fun—a vacation is a vacation, right? Wrong. One study found that who we travel with greatly impacts how much we enjoy our trip. (Out of traveling alone or with someone’s friends, partner, relatives, or colleagues, people enjoyed traveling with their colleagues the least.) 

One reason: You might want to rise and shine for a morning hike, for instance, whereas your brother-in-law might want to sleep in and zone out at the beach. “There can be a lot of interpersonal conflict over how you manage the schedule and the priorities,” Preston says. 

To truly recharge, think very carefully about how well your vacation desires will mesh with those of your travel companions. 

Tap your friends for advice

Googling the best restaurants in Mexico City could lead you down a three-hour rabbit hole of research. Instead, consider asking for food recommendations only from your friend who went there a few months ago. “Crowdsource advice from friends who have been places, and they’ll tell you the restaurants to go to or the hikes that were spectacular, and that can save a lot of time,” Preston says. 

Pack with compression cubes

Packing is personal, Vazquez says. Some people carefully plan their outfits, while others toss a hodgepodge of items into their suitcase and figure it out later. Regardless of your style, she recommends using compression packing cubes to condense your items and serve as portable drawers, keeping you organized while you’re away. “I cannot overemphasize what a game changer these were for me when I found them,” she says. They’re particularly useful for people traveling with kids, as you can pack each family member’s items in a different compression bag. 

Eliminate layovers if you can

You might not be able to avoid layovers if you’re traveling somewhere far away, or if your budget doesn’t allow for a nonstop flight. But it’s ideal to take direct flights and streamline travel if you can. Flight connections can be stressful, especially if you’re traveling internationally, have a short layover time, or if one leg of your flight is delayed. 

If you’re spending significant time getting to and from your destination, you might not return feeling like you had a truly restful trip, Vazquez says. “You might have even added to your anxiety by making a large portion of your time away dedicated to complicated travel arrangements,” she says.

Get the latest news delivered to your inbox

Follow us on social media networks

NEXT health : What to Know as High Bacteria Levels Cause Beach Closures Across the United States