06 · 26 · 19
Emotions

How to Keep Stress and Anxiety from Ruining Your Vacation

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Does the thought of taking a summer vacation with your loved ones stress you out?  We know that taking a much-needed break can be an opportunity to rest, explore, and connect.  But it can also be a test of our frustration tolerance.  Here are some tips for keeping your composure and actually enjoying your vacation this summer.

1. Set a Vacation Intention

Intentions help keep us on track.  Your intention might be to have fun, make time for romance, or be kind to your family.  Pick one intention that really resonates, write it down, and stick to it.  It will help set the tone of the trip and remind you to ignore trivial sources of frustration.

2. Prepare for Triggers

Do you get anxious on planes?  Does your partner get cranky after too many hours sightseeing?  Are your kids always ravenous?  Try to prepare for any obvious mood killers (being hangry, boredom, fatigue, overstimulation, being hung-over, etc.) by taking along supplies (water bottles, snacks, headphones, new toys, etc.).  If you struggle with anxiety, make sure that you bring along soothing objects and activities such as: fidgets, books, downloaded podcasts, guided meditations, and favorite snacks.  Also, be sure to leave wiggle room in your schedule for rest.  For example, if your trip is taking your kids to Disney and Universal Studios, you might want to go to a theme park on Monday, relax and hang out by the pool on Tuesday, go to a theme park on Wednesday, then chill on Thursday, and so on.

3. Negotiate Needs

Do you and your partner have different vacation styles?  Are you more of a planner while they prefer exploration and spontaneity?  Do you enjoy relaxing while they opt for adventure?  It’s ok to be different as long as you compromise.  Make sure that you talk about your needs and how you plan to manage differences and stress during the trip.  Let your partner know that you might need to take naps or go to the gym alone to refuel and that you’ll give them the space to recharge as well.  Just be sure the workload is fair if you have young children with you.  Also keep your children’s stress levels in mind.  Are they understimulated, overstimulated, hungry, or tired?  Rather than focusing on their behaviors, see the needs underneath and try to fill them (preferably before things get out of hand).  Of course, the best way to do this is to manage your own stress level and needs first.  Your well-being is as important as everyone else’s.

4. Pick a Mantra

Whenever I get stressed over something, I hear my mindfulness meditation teacher’s voice in my head saying, “It’s already here.”  It’s the perfect reminder that whatever minor irritating event just happened (someone making a mistake, being late, traffic, etc.), it’s already here and there’s no use trying to wish it away or play the blame game.  This saying has become a mantra that helps me ignore minor irritations, stay solution-focused, and go with the flow.  Is there an inspirational phrase that could help you let things go and stay solution-focused?  Here are a few examples:

It’s already here.

Even when I feel stressed, I will be kind.

Pause.

Be here now.

I’m in charge of my stress response.

5. Reset and repair

If you do get stressed out and start snapping at your partner or kids, remember that you can always reset and repair.  Resetting means that you shake off the negative mood and give yourself a chance to recalibrate.  Take a walk, do some deep breathing, or just spend a few minutes alone to reset.  Then, and this part is very important for a strong attachment bond, make an attempt to repair any relationships that may have been affected.  Apologize, give hugs, and take responsibility for your behavior.  If your loved ones are making repair efforts toward you, be sure to receive them as well!  Repair efforts are important for security and safety in all healthy relationships.

Now that you have a few tools under your belt, I hope your upcoming trip is a little more fun and a lot more manageable!

Your turn: What’s the one thing you can do to manage stress on your next vacation?

Ask Dr. Kress
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