The thought of booking an all-inclusive vacation under the sun is appealing to most, but when your budget doesn’t allow it, there’s always the option of a staycation.
While it wouldn’t include white sand or clear waters, some experts believe the act of relaxing or de-stressing can be done in the comfort of your own home, or at least in the city you live in.
“Not everyone has the time or means to take a very much-needed vacation away from home, and in fact, de-stressing can happen as a staycation, if you reset your mindset and expectations,” said Lauren Millman of Lauren Millman Counselling and Psychological Services in Thornhill, Ont.
Treat staycations like vacations
Jamie Gruman, a professor at the University of Guelph and author of Boost: The Science of Recharging Yourself in an Age of Unrelenting Demands, told Global News some of us are conditioned to believe we have to go somewhere if we book time off work.
“We assume a vacation means we have to get away,” he explained. “But we also recognize when we stay home, it’s easy to stay in the same routine and we don’t feel like we’re on vacation.”
He added if you can’t necessarily book a trip to another city or country, you should at least treat your staycation like a vacation. “If you’re going to stay home you need to shake up your routine as well,” adding if Monday is considered a vacation day, don’t do your laundry or other household chores you wouldn’t do on any other vacation.
He said to consider having a break at work as an analogy. If you spend your break doing other work, it doesn’t feel like a break. This is the same thing with staycations — if you spend your free time catching up on errands, you won’t feel relaxed or de-stressed.
Millman even recommended shutting off your phone for a day or two. “Leave your phone at home, or at least off, if you must bring it with you,” she said.
When your brain works overtime
There have been countless studies on the benefits of taking a vacation; from reducing the risk of death to improving sleeping and decreasing stress, vacations go beyond just making people feel better.
Millman said for the sake of our mental health, we should all be taking a break.
“Machines get overloaded, and we are no different,” she said. “You don’t need to spend much money to get the recharge you need; you just need a well-planned few hours with some activities you enjoy, and the commitment to do them, uninterrupted.”
This is when a staycation can be beneficial. Downtime, even if this means at home, helps regulate and re-acclimate the brain so that we’re able to function.
“When we’re stressed, we’re actually in fight-or-flight mode, and our systems go into high gear, and we may become irritable, quick to judge, stressed, anxious, intolerant and caustic, and generally not our best selves. Even doing nothing is doing something, so recharge any way that suits you.”
How to plan a staycation
The idea of planning a staycation may sound a little silly, but it can help you stick to a routine, as Millman mentioned above. She recommended being a tourist in your own city. Gruman said if you are tired of the same view, drive out to the next nearby city or town and see what you can explore.
Think of things that relax you. If the idea of sitting on the beach or by the pool recharges you, try a day spa. If you like art, architecture or restaurants, check out your city’s latest offerings.
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For some, relaxing can include just curling up on the couch and binge-watching movies.
“I’m a big believer in lists, as they create concrete concepts, ideas, appointments and plans,” Millman continued. “Sometimes using up vacation days over time, by creating long weekends, is a great way to get the break you need, feel rejuvenated, and know that another mini break is around the corner.”
Gruman added for others, staycations are about having no plans. “When we are working we have structures, schedules and deadlines, so it’s important in your leisure time to get away from all that,” he said. “You could spend a day just wandering, that has the effect of recharging your batteries.”