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Vacation Planning to Avoid Stress

Getting away from our routine environment to take a vacation is a much-sought-after break, meant to be fun and enlivening.  We hope to not only enjoy our time away, but return home and to work reinvigorated.

Sadly, for many couples and families, just the opposite happens.  The travel, the vacation location, the change of regular routines (sleep and diet) – plus the increased amount of time spent together all day – can have many returning and saying they “need a vacation after their vacation.”

One way to avoid some of that is to set more realistic expectations.  If a couple has been argumentative and fault-finding when at home, going to another location in and of itself is probably not going to change that.  But there are a few things that can press the restart button. 

The first would be to find 15 minutes each day to not have activities scheduled, to turn off the phones, the TV, sit in a quiet, private location across from each other (ideally, holding hands) and each say how they are doing, feeling, frustrations, happy experiences, puzzles.  While one person is sharing, it’s best if the listener focuses on hearing how their partner is feeling, rather than on the details of the specific things being said.  Let them just express themselves without interruption, and when they have finished, give some kind of empathy statement. That doesn’t mean necessarily agreeing with what they have said or felt, just a general positive statement of appreciation or thanks without having to address what’s been said.  When a person feels fully heard without judgement, it is a real gift to the relationship.   Each person should take a turn, and when you are both done, stand up and have a nice long hug. 

Most of us really want to feel understood and cared about.  Just this simple process – remember, without any “fixes” or disagreeing with what’s been said – can relieve much stress of the busy schedules and unusual routines when we are away.  These few minutes of focused connection can have us feeling much less overwhelmed and stressed, so we can enjoy our vacation time much more fully.

The second important tip is about that hugging.  Do much more of it.  We recommend aiming for six 6-second hugs a day.  Most of us are just not getting enough physical connection with our loved ones.  It’s nurturing, it’s free, and it’s quick.  Research has shown we need about 12-16 hugs a day to thrive.  But starting out to create a habit of at least six good long hugs a day will make a difference – give it a try and see how you feel after a few weeks! 


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