How to Unstress and Truly Enjoy Your Vacation

by Henrik Edberg


Image by visualpanic (license).

“A perfect summer day is when the sun is shining, the breeze is blowing, the birds are singing, and the lawn mower is broken.”
James Dent

“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under the trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.”
John Lubbock

Summer is here.

Many people around the world and readers of this blog will start their vacations soon. And although the longer vacation that many get from their job or school once a year is dreamed of as time to recharge and relax it can become a time of overwhelm and shoulds instead

So how can you prevent that and find a good balance between doing fun stuff and catching up on things you want to do and just relaxing?

Here are a few tips to help you out.

Let go of what you “have to do”.

If you are feeling totally stressed out and wrapped up in everything you “have to do” during this vacation then here is a good question:

Will this matter in 5 years? Or even 5 months?

This is of course not an excuse for you to not do anything. But a reminder that the small things we get wrapped up in when we feel stressed are often not that important when you view them from a wider perspective.

In the end you can choose what you want to do and not do. There are of course consequences to everything that we do and that is something one must keep in mind. But I think it is very important to feel like you are in control of your own life to be able to stay centered and minimize stress and pressure.

It’s important to be able to say no and to choose what you want to do instead of always living in reaction and feeling controlled by outside forces all the time.

You may for example feel like you have all these things you “just have to do before the summer is over”. If such thoughts are stressing you out, then choose to say no to at least some of those things. Make a list of the priorities or things you feel you need to do and eliminate or minimize 2-3 of the least important or meaningful ones.

Now, saying no can be a bit difficult but if you don’t then it’s easy to get lost in too many of other people’s plans and shoulds during the vacation. Here is one tip that can help you to say no:

Disarm and then state your need.

It becomes easier for people to accept your no if you disarm them first. You could for example do that by honestly saying that you are flattered or that you appreciate the kind offer or clever idea. Then you, for instance, add that you do not have the time right now for accepting and doing what they want.

Since some pushy people want to overcome your objections and convince you to do something even if you first say no with a valid reason you can try this: state how you feel as a reason for saying no. For example say that you do not feel that this offer is a good fit for your life right now. Or that you feel overwhelmed or tired after the long winter and spring and so you cannot do whatever they want.

The point of telling someone how you feel is not only to make them understand your side of the issue better but also that it is a lot harder to argue with how you feel rather than how you think. How you feel is your thing and no one can really come up with good counterarguments to that.

And remember, this is your life. And your vacation.

Sure, you may need to compromise a bit too but by letting go of shoulds, saying no to some things and yes to other things you can choose and you create a truly enjoyable and meaningful vacation.

Stop thinking that the world revolves around you.

One common way to make your life unnecessarily hard and difficult is to assume that the world revolves around you. It can make you feel like you are trapped in a cage built out of social pressure. Not pleasant at all.

But is everyone watching everything you do? Thinking about you a lot and discussing what you said or did? Probably not. It’s very seductive to think they do because it makes you feel important and it gives you validation and attention. But they are probably spending most of their time worrying about their own challenges in life and what other people think about them.

It’s not easy to let go of the belief that the world revolves around you. But there are huge benefits such as decreased shyness and increased openness towards people and trying new things.

So you give up or decrease the importance you put on validation from the outside. And by doing so you can release a lot of pressure and stress and increase your own inner centeredness and freedom to feel that you can do what you want in life.

And as you do so you stop raising your self-esteem and increasing positive feelings about yourself through the validation people may give you (or at least you cut down on it a lot).

Instead you now raise the self-esteem and increase the positive feelings by doing more of what you think are the right things to do in life and by caring more about what you think and feel about yourself and how you are living your life.

This can help you not only to have the vacation you deep down want and to chill out but also help you long after this summer is gone.

Spend your time online in a very focused way.

One change I usually do during the summer is to minimize the time I spend online. I cut it down to the bare essentials. Basically that means I update the blog and send out new newsletters. And I check my email/Twitter/Facebook maybe once every other day. Of course, you may not have the option or want to make exactly those changes.

But you may want to try to cut down on your online time a bit. Maybe just check all the things you check online once a day. I have found that it makes me a lot more relaxed, focused on the most important things and leaves me with more time to use for other things.

Set a low bar for happiness this summer.

When you wake up in the morning, tell yourself: “Have a low bar for happiness today.”

When you tell yourself this and try to keep it in mind during the day you’ll appreciate things more. That is my experience at least.

It makes the sunny summer days feel more wonderful and I appreciate the small and big adventures even more. The food tastes better and I tend to enjoy the sensations of the day more mindfully. I take more pauses for a moment or two to take it all in and to appreciate the people in my life and the things I have instead of taking them for granted.

Take a few days and do nothing at all. Accept how you feel.

Maybe you try some of the tips above. And maybe they still can’t help you to shake that stress, inner pressure or whatever you are carrying around from the past few months of hard work. If so:

Take a few days or a week where you take it easy and do pretty much nothing. It can do wonders for your mind and body.

When stressful feelings or impulses pop up during those days, sit down for a moment or two and just pause. Be still.

Then tell yourself: “This is how I feel right now and I accept it”.

By accepting how you feel instead of resisting it you reduce the emotional energy that you are feeding into these issues or negative feelings. And then inner pressure, stress or other impulses that can sabotage your vacation just tend lose speed like a car that runs out of fuel. Oftentimes these things becomes so weak after while that they disappear. Or they at least become a lot less powerful.

And so you can release the inner pressure and the stress bit by bit. You can truly wind down for a few weeks and spend that time as you want to without the extra baggage.




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{ 18 comments }

Glori | Crazy Introvert June 6, 2012 at 5:12 pm

I can’t remember when I last had a real vacation…. *sigh*
But I’ll be sure to keep these things in mind when I finally take one.
Thanks Henrik!

Henrik Edberg June 8, 2012 at 3:23 pm

You’re very welcome, I hope you’ll find some of them helpful when you decide to take that vacation. :)

Kelsey June 6, 2012 at 11:21 pm

When I couldn’t use my cell phone during my honeymoon, it was actually a great relief!

Henrik Edberg June 8, 2012 at 3:25 pm

I can imagine that. The cell phone, internet or the computer can become a constant stressfactor in life. A break from any of those things can have a bigger effect that one may think (that has been my experience at least).

Bojan June 7, 2012 at 11:49 am

Hey Henrik,
Minimizing the online time is absolutely crucial, talking of my experience. It can be a huge time waster, especially the social media. The time can just fly by, without you noticing it.
As you said it : “It’s important to be able to say no and to choose what you want to do instead of always living in reaction and feeling controlled by outside forces all the time. ”
And it’s true, you can’t possibly enjoy anything in life, without being able to say NO to unnecessary time wasters.

Henrik Edberg June 8, 2012 at 3:27 pm

Absolutely, when you look at the watch you have all of a sudden spent half an hour on Facebook. So being careful with your online habits can be a big help. Thank you for adding your thoughts!

Joshua ogri June 7, 2012 at 2:26 pm

wow,taking a break has been quite hard for me cos the nature of what i do hardly gives me that chance.

Henrik Edberg June 8, 2012 at 3:29 pm

Thanks for the comment! I hope these tips can help you a bit to get more high quality breaks.

Imogen Caterer June 8, 2012 at 4:53 pm

Learning to wind down can be really important. I use an approach from “Energetic NLP” (a variant of NLP with Energy work included) which involves imagining a magnet gently pull off stress and negativity and what in your personality leads you to hang onto them.

It works well with the unconscious mind because the unconscious mind knows exactly what a magnet is (assuming you played with one as a child.)

Dana Lightman June 8, 2012 at 8:41 pm

Love the quote by John Lubbock. All to often I forget that life is meant not just to “do” but also to “be” and there’s no better time than the summer to just watch butterflies, feel the sun, marvel at the colors of the flowers, taste the freshest of fruit, and hear the birds sing. A feast for the senses.

Kristi June 11, 2012 at 1:26 am

Sometimes not relaxing in the short term is the only way to avoid stress in the medium term. The weather was gorgeous today, so I closed the blinds to work on one of my top priorities. After I shut off my phone, closed my browser, and poured myself a cup of tea, I was able to focus now so I can relax later.

praveen June 11, 2012 at 3:36 pm

There is a close connection between anxiety and stress. When we are subject to intensely stressful situations, the system reacts psychologically, physically and emotionally. The reaction varies from individual to individual.

Sir Richard Lindo June 11, 2012 at 5:17 pm

Nice article Henrik,
I’m like Glori; excellent blog by the way.
I rarely take much vacations. And even when I’m on one, I’m still busy thinking and working. I will try to relax more often.

God bless

Bobby Bonds June 13, 2012 at 4:38 am

It seems that the older you get the more you are ok with a vacation. My first few years in the job force I never took a vacation, but now I am ok with taking a few days off.

GoingHappier June 13, 2012 at 10:24 pm

Great post!

You may also be interested in http://www.goinghappier.com!

JAYASHREE Shah June 20, 2012 at 11:30 pm

Well written and timely too,taking holidays long weekend break in Croatia after series of recent socio-medical challenges .
Our holidays are booked by thoughtful son who thinks as a parents we have acted enough like Mother Terrasa and time to refuelled our souls as his operation is now on way on our return.
thanks Henrik. We sure got tips from your article on vacation.

Gillian July 2, 2012 at 11:22 pm

Letting go of what you “have to do” is a tough one but so necessary for unwinding and enjoying a vacation! Thanks for this post – it’s good to know this is something a lot of people deal with.

Kelsey @ Self Storage Investing July 18, 2012 at 9:44 pm

On my vacations, I try to go somewhere where there is no internet access or cell phone reception. That way I can truly “unplug”.

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