What Happens to You During a Stressful Vacation?
I recently traveled halfway across the country to visit extended family whom I hadn’t seen in years. I felt anxious at the prospect of getting reacquainted with several people at once. At the same time, I felt virtuous (look at me, making an effort!).
But instead of enjoying some much-needed “me” time, I felt an imprecise yet persistent pressure to say “yes” to every invitation extended. I felt tense and exhausted every night, woke up with a killer migraine a couple of days before my flight home . . . and when I got back to work, felt even more drained than I had before leaving.
Have you ever felt like you needed a vacation from your vacation?
When was the last time you had a relaxing vacation? One that left you feeling refreshed and revitalized . . . where your time was truly your own? If you’ve ever found yourself thinking, “I need a vacation from my vacation,” your ego-references and indirect motivations may be to blame.
Vacation can be a welcome break from your routine, but even in an unfamiliar environment, you remain your same old self—even if yours is a Substitute Sense of Self fueled by the need to fulfill a hidden agenda.
A Substitute Sense of Self compels you to perform a certain role: in my case, the role of an emotionally present and unselfish granddaughter and niece. This compulsion is always lurking, even when you’ve attained a temporary feeling-good-about-self state.
Is Your Stressful Vacation an Opportunity for Growth?
Here’s the silver lining: a break from routine—even a stressful break—can provide you with a rare opportunity for understanding your motivations. You can experience a fresh perspective on your communication with family members, your habits, and your knee-jerk reactions to frustration. You may notice things about yourself that you’d usually gloss over at home or work.
Suitcase-Ready Strategies for Self-evaluation
If you’re like most Americans, your vacation days are limited or nonexistent, which makes managing vacation stress essentially impossible. You try to stuff as much fun and relaxation as possible into your allotted time, and either over plan or don’t plan enough.
Pair this with the unforgiving standards you’ve set for yourself, and you’ve created the perfect conditions for guilt, stress, and perpetuation of your indirect relationship with Self.
You may be saying: “Self-evaluation? That sounds like work, and I’m going on vacation!” And you’re right; it is work. But luckily for you, restoring your Sense of Self is a gradual process. It’s a process that easily adapts to the bite-sized pieces of time you can set aside for yourself.
Continue your journal writing and reflect on the following questions.
- Use your vacation as an opportunity to score “likes” and points with friends and family?
- Take lots of pictures as proof of how much fun you’re having?
- Feel offended when people don’t want to participate in activities you’ve planned?
Vacation stress can send your thinking mind into overdrive. So find a quiet, solitary place—lock yourself in the hotel bathroom if you must—and write down all the petty and frustrating details of the events that upset you the most. Your feelings may be key clues to your indirect motivations.
Don’t abandon your self-care rituals.
Easier said than done, I know. But when your routine is thrown out of whack, sticking to your favorite self-care practices helps keep you in the present moment, the best place to be when you’re working on restoring your healthy sense of Self.
Check out the Healthy Sense of Self grounding exercise; it’s a simple way to return to your Self no matter where you are. May your vacation be refreshing and insightful! And may you feel at home with your Self, even when you’re far from home!
About the Author: Lindsay takes pride in crafting content that is clear, conversational and draws people in with what we all want to hear: a good story. Her love for compelling narrative and rigorous research led her to pursue a history degree in college, the equivalent of Spartan military training for reading and writing.