Illustration: Wenting Li
There's a right way and a wrong way to vacation. Here's how to set off on the right foot.
I have to admit, I'm a sucker for New Year's resolutions. Love them. It's like back to school for grown-ups. Whether you're creating a whole fresh crop of goals or continuing incremental movement toward existing objectives, a new year is an opportunity to push the reset button.
One of the psychological greats, Alfred Adler espoused the philosophy that our lives are blank canvases and we are the artists who hold the brush. So what do we want to do with this clean slate? Foremost among most people's list of resolutions is to feel less stress. And the best way I know to get away from life's stressors is to take a holiday. With 2019 unfurling in front of us like an open road, where do we want to go? And how?
There's a right way and a wrong way to vacation; here's how to set off on the right foot:
Plan regular vacations. They don't need to be grand treks in order to earn a destress merit badge; oftentimes, a staycation can do the trick. The point is to truly park stressors in the rearview mirror and get away. The planning of regularly spaced holidays is purposeful; even when one trip is over, the next one is in sight. Spend some effort this month mapping out mental health breaks.
Know who you are and advocate for yourself. Are you an introvert who requires alone time to recharge or does being the life of the party rev you up? Do you like the soothing quality of nature or the buzz of the big city? Figure out what fills your bucket, and once you have, speak up. If the feeling of sand between your toes makes you squirm, don't sign up for a beach resort.
Travel light. Most of us find that we don't unwind until halfway through a week away. What a waste! To maximize your relaxation, imagine a mental parking lot for work and family triggers, and proactively slot those soul suckers into a parking space before the vacation. Take 10 minutes to meditate, visualizing problems on the sidelines. Every time a nagging or dispiriting thought slithers into your brain, gently push it back into the parking lot, where it'll be waiting for you come Monday morning.
To unplug or not to unplug from technology…. There are growing groups of teenagers and young adults coming into my office complaining about the anxiety that comes with the ping, ping, ping of social media bombardment. More and more of them are showing off flip phones that come with a whole lot less connectivity. When I ran this by my prescient 14-year-old, however, he sagely said, "You've got to know your audience, Mom. That wouldn't work for my group." And he's right; for younger teens in the throes of establishing and maintaining their place among their peers, being disconnected adds anxiety, and access to Wi-Fi is more important to them than a constant food supply. Personally, I want to let a thick layer of dust settle on my iPhone screen while my Netflix account takes a beating. There isn't a one-size-fits-all approach to connectivity, so suit yourself, but make your decision mindfully, based on personal likes and not on Instagram likes.