When you live with a mental health disorder, like anxiety and PTSD, a mental health vacation is just what you need to recharge, reconnect, and feel like yourself again when you have been under a great deal of stress.
I have been planning self care vacations and self care stay-cations since the early 2000’s for my own anxiety and PTSD. –Oops, I’m showing my age again.-
I have made it a twice yearly habit for better mental health. Yes you heard me, twice a year. How? Because these tips are not only great for stress, they’re great for your wallet too!
In this post we will cover:
- What is a Mental Health Vacation?
- How Does a Mental Health Vacation Help?
- How to Plan a Self Care Vacation or a Stay-Cation
- My personal do’s and don’t s for a perfect mental health vacation that will help you improve your mental health, while also keeping to a simpler lifestyle and small budget. –Don’t forget to pin the infographic when you see it!–
What is a Mental Health Vacation?
A self care or mental health vacation is an essential tool in your self care kit to help you improve your mental health. It can be:
- a day off
- a stay-cation
- a vacation away from home
- or any time dedicated to actively improving your mental health.
- time home alone doing what you love without responsibility or interruptions.
A mental health vacation is a temporary stress relief method to help you regroup, reduce overwhelm, and come back refreshed.
How Does a Mental Health Vacation Help?
Like any stress relief method, a self care vacation helps you combat stress. When you’re surrounded by stress, all problems seem larger.
This tool can help you get “outside the box” and help you relax and solve your problem. Other benefits of a mental health vacation include:
- Feel more relaxed
- Recharge your soul
- Be inspired to make positive changes
- Become engaged in your life and passions again
- Start feeling happier
- Get an outside view of your problems
- Get a jump start on taking care of yourself
- and much more!
How Do I Plan a Mental Health Trip?
Here’s the skinny on self care vacation planning: don’t over complicate it.
Your self care vacation can be as simple as staying home with your tv, a bag of chips, and trash tv. If that is what improves your mental health, that is what you should be doing!!
My personal mental health vacation plan always involves small travel plans, as I live in a very busy metropolitan city. I need to get un-busy and have a slower pace to relax.
These tips are to help you relax and slow down. Enjoy these tips on how to plan a self care vacation that relieves anxiety.
The Tips for Mental Health Vacation Planning
Don’t Leave Behind a Dirty Home
Clutter can increase stress, over stimulation, and cause other mental issues. The purpose of a self care vacation is to improve your mental health and to come back refreshed. There are several perks to coming home to a clean home:
- The vacation vibe can continue! Coming home to a clean home delays chores and can help you bring that relaxed state back to your everyday life.
- You can tell immediately if your home is disturbed by home sitters, pet sitters, or uninvited guests.
- You’ll be able to put dirty laundry right in the washer.
- You won’t have to clean up to eat or sleep.
- You will breathe easier with a clean home.
- You will sleep better in clean sheets!
- It helps you get ahead of your everyday life.
- If you’re practicing a stay-cation, you won’t have any chores to do!
I like to spend a few hours cleaning my house prior to departure. This cleaning planner is filled with worksheets to help you get organized, so cleaning is a breeze. It really helps me find a starting point when I am overwhelmed with chores. When I come home, I feel nice and zen and my mind stays calmer and stress free. There is nothing like coming home to no chores!!!!
Make an Upbeat Playlist for the Drive
This week I took time with my daughter for a self care vacation. During our 5 hour drive, we played upbeat and fun music. I sang so much that I went hoarse!! My spirits were lifted; I felt energized, and I was ready to have fun!
I love music! And having songs at my fingertips is a must for me. I use Amazon Music to create playlists for my many moods.
My #1 rule for my road trip playlist is: no songs that cause negative feelings. No sad, depressed, or anxious feelings caused by music allowed!! Feeling uplifted helps me have fun during my self care vacation. Good music can soothe the soul and change your mood.
Not into music or are a passenger? Try reading books that lift your spirits, make you forget your worries, or are just a fun read for you.
Choose a Mental Health Vacation Destination that Relaxes and Grounds You
I am uniquely blessed to have travel as part of my life. As a military family, we have lived all over the world- including Japan! So when I plan a self care vacation, I always think about what spot is going to help me create happiness and relax.
Since we don’t live close to family, my favorite destination is my hometown in North Carolina. I get to visit my family and spend lazy country days with them after being apart for so long.
My destinations may not be the trending hot spot, but they always help me find stress relief and happiness again.
Ideas for Choosing a Mental Health Destination:
- A local spot near you that perks your interest:- We currently live in D.C.(as of 2022), and I want to take a little getaway to Old Towne Alexandria with the hubby. I want to spend the weekend there in a local hotel and just relax and explore with him. We can wander the streets and check out local food and shops. But I am close enough to home that I could get back within 30 minutes if I needed to making it an easy to go to local spot for me to take a day of self care vacation time.
- Local State Parks or campgrounds (with or without cabins)- When I move, my first personal task is to find a local state park, lake, or hiking trails I love. Being around nature for a day helps me destress and feel like myself again. It’s the perfect self care destination. Nature always has a way to make you feel better.
- Beaches– Have you been to a North Carolina beach? There is a reason that NC Beaches draw crowds from all over the United States! And the sound of the ocean waves is really relaxing. We like to go in late March/ early April to avoid tourists while still having nice weather. For a quick pick me up, watch my video of the beach waves.
- Mountains: There are some GORGEOUS mountain towns! One of my favorites is Asheville, North Carolina. Wouldn’t you love to sit on the porch with a cup of coffee and watch local wildlife?
- Local Bed and Breakfast: Sometimes just getting away for the weekend is enough!
- Your Hometown: –If you don’t live there already, getting back to your roots can help you reconnect with happy childhood memories.
- A vacation spot you have always wanted to see:- Mine is Iceland! We are planning this self care vacation for after my husband’s military retirement in a few years to celebrate and get accustomed to civilian life again.
- Somewhere Fun!:- Take a day trip to a local amusement park, a craft fair, dog expo, or some fun activity. You deserve to have fun too!
- Here’s a book with suggestions: 1000 Perfect Weekends! Great Getaways Around the Globe
Include Uplifting and Supportive People Or Go Alone
Leave toxic friends and family out of your plans. You are NOT required to take anyone with you that will not support you and uplift you and help you feel better. Take a break from your kids and spouse occasionally so you can reconnect with yourself. When you take care of yourself, you are better equipped to care for others.
As a military spouse, I have gotten used to traveling without my husband. And sometimes that’s great. I need alone time to sort out my thoughts. I encourage my husband to do the same.
But sometimes I want to be with uplifting people. So I visit family and friends that I hadn’t seen. –Sometimes it’s years since seeing some of my friends since we live so far apart! It’s great to reconnect, face to face, with people who love and support me.
Including them on your self care vacation can help you feel loved and supported. I feel happy again and go back home ready to take on my everyday challenges.
Take a Tech Break
Life is at our fingertips now. And honestly, I hate it some days. I miss the slower pace of life.
E-mails pile up, text messages pressure me to respond when I am already busy, and those little chimes from social media make me absolutely crazy.
My brother lives for computers and technology, literally, he’s a computer tech, and even he takes a break from the digital world to appreciate our down time together.
I frequently take tech breaks when I am on a self care vacation so I can get to know myself again and escape societal pressures, marketing spam, and general negativity.
RELATED POST: Why Do I Feel Empty & Tips to Bring Back Joy
Books to Help You With a Digital Detox
Getting away from the tech allows me to remember that my life is worth living, and I don’t have to be tuned into the world to be happy.
I know what you’re thinking: “You’re a blogger. Doesn’t your whole career involve tech?” Why yes, it does! But that doesn’t mean it has to run my whole life. I try to not allow myself to get swallowed whole by technology, as being so connected can really be detrimental to my mental health.
If you’re having trouble disconnecting from technology, just like I did, then here are two books that will help you take those first steps.
Don’t Break Your Budget
We all want to take the ultimate getaway, but having thousands of dollars in debt is NOT the way to help de-stress your life. It will just make it worse.
Staying on budget will help you keep your financial goals intact and help you feel relaxed, recharged, and happy about your mental health vacation.
-My most expensive self care vacation was $500. Only because I found the most amazing shopping there!-
You don’t want to come home feeling guilty for putting your family in debt that you couldn’t really afford.
I plan with my in-laws, mother, and father to stay at their home to save money. We spend time together, and I get to recharge on a budget. Then I have a little spending money to drive to places I haven’t been in a while.
And if my support system and I decide to go to a destination for our mental health vacation, we all split the cost of the room and take turns with gas and groceries, making it a more affordable vacation for everyone.
My last destination self care vacation with gas and food for a week was $200. Yes, a week with my family with meals, travel, and fun was just $200.
I am going home with a sense of peace, accomplishment, and I am ready to get back to my life and take charge. And best of all, I have no guilt about taking care of myself.
You don’t have to blow your budget to feel better.
RELATED POST: How to Be Happy When You’re Living With PTSD
Don’t Overload Your Schedule
Your self care vacation should NOT be jam packed with activities. You want to allow your mind and body time to slow down and de-stress. Creating happiness doesn’t happen when you are super busy. You will continue to feel stressed and overwhelmed.
Allow lazy days. Eat when your body says it’s hungry. Allow time just to sit and relax. Being un-busy is the key to creating happiness and allowing your body and mind to take time to heal. You wouldn’t schedule a busy day when your body has the flu; don’t do it when your brain needs a break.
RELATED POST: Why Do I Feel Empty & Tips to Bring Back Joy
Include Well Behaved Pets
I am a worry wart. My fur babies are a HUGE part of my life, and leaving them behind just isn’t an option for me. –And besides, I travel with a service dog anyway, what’s two more?-
I end up more stressed than I started if I leave behind my babies. Thankfully, since they are such a huge part of my life, I have put in TONS of positive training time and my babies are well behaved.
I always ask before I just show up with my fur babies, but I can enjoy myself fully during my self care vacation if I can include my dogs– At least the two that are not active service dogs. *You may have to pay an additional fee at hotels for non service animals.*
I sleep better at night with my fur babies beside me. However, if you have some really rambunctious, destructive, or loud pets; a pet sitter, boarder, or animal hotel could be just the thing to give you peace of mind while you are taking care of yourself. Some places even have web cameras, so you can watch.
When your fur babies are well taken care of, you can rest, relax, and you can focus on being happy again. So if they enjoy adventures, exploring new places, and are easy to manage; make them a part of your trip and create new memories with them.
Related Post: Is an Emotional Support Dog the Same as a Service Dog?
Schedule Extra Sleep FIRST
Stress zaps your energy and runs you down. You can feel flu-like symptoms just from being stressed. And when we are stressed, we don’t sleep well.
You need to make resting and recharging your body and mind a priority on your mental health vacation to maximize your stress relief.
Get a minimum of 8 hours of restful sleep regardless of what time you go to bed. Turn your alarm clock off and allow your body to wake you naturally. Stress increases your need for sleep.
Prioritizing sleep will help your brain, and body, relax and allow negative energy to leave.
Include Hobbies and Activities that Help You Relieve Stress
When I take a self care vacation, I like to include hobbies that relieve stress in my schedule. I take my dogs to new hiking trails, take photos of the trip, read, and more!
If you’re looking to try something new while you are on your self care vacation; try riding horses on the beach, hiking trails and exploring, take a class with a local artist, or bird watch the local birds. –If you traveled to a different area, there will be some different bird breeds for you to see!
Doing hobbies you love will help you create happiness again and help you heal your soul.
Adding a self care vacation plan to your self care plan will help you retreat when you need a break. It can give you back some control when your everyday life is hectic and stressful.
Have you ever taken a self care vacation? Tell me in the comments!
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