When we hear the word ‘vacation’, it brings a smile to our faces, doesn’t it? I am sure you smiled too, after all, the thought of a vacation can make anyone hopeful and happy. Hills, beaches, plains, whatever the destination may be, a vacation is looked forward to by all. The literal definition of a vacation is ‘A period of time that a person spends away from home, school, business/ work usually in order to relax or travel.’ But what is a mental vacation? Read along to find out.
Well, what if I tell you that you can take a vacation anywhere, anytime, without spending a dime? Would that excite you? Or would it bring in a zillion questions in your mind? When I heard this statement for the first time, I had several questions in my mind — “Is it even possible to take a vacation like this?”, “If it is possible, why weren’t we ever told about this?”, “Who all can do this?”, “Was I fooled my whole life?”, “Wouldn’t my work life suffer with such a break?” etc. I am sure, a lot of you must be thinking along similar lines.
Let me introduce you to the concept called mental vacation. The essence of a vacation is nothing but a break from the monotonous busy lives we all are living. Similarly, a mental vacation is a pause, a respite, or a recess during a normal day that halts your routine and gives you an opportunity to unwind and reset. You don’t really need to physically move in order to take a break. Maybe you will have to move to a quieter corner, or go out alone to your car or walk a little but that’s all about it. A mental vacation will not need you to hop on the next flight and fly across cities.
Different ways to take a mental vacation:
1. Go outside
Whenever you’re having a super busy day at work, take out a few minutes for yourself. Switch off your phone for five to 10 minutes, put away all screens, go to a coffee shop or sit out on a busy street by yourself. Soak up your surroundings. You’re not required to talk to anyone, just sit back and look around, see the human life and be fully present with yourself at that moment.
2. Take a walk
Walking is known to declutter your mind and provide clarity. While you are walking, thoughts flow through your mind freely. Use this time to eliminate all the negative thoughts that had been bothering you.
3. Make a list
Make a list of things which are of high priority. This will take some load off your mind and give you the much-needed direction. When you have a lot of things running in your mind but you are unable to process a road map and can not act upon anything, these things start taking up a lot of mind space, causing clutter, stress and irritation. So, make it easy for yourself by taking a pause and making a priority list or even just a to-do list.
4. Be silly
As they say, never lose the inner child in you. In this fast-paced world, it is important to hold onto the sense of wonder and playfulness you had as a child, as it brings joy and creativity to our lives even as adults. Nurturing our inner child also helps us maintain a sense of curiosity and openness to new experiences, thereby breaking the daily monotony. Being childlike is something that will not only make you joyous, but it’ll also definitely bring a smile to other people’s faces too.
5. Have a hobby
If you happen to have a little more than 15 minutes, you can try pursuing an old hobby of yours. Try dedicating 30 minutes of your daily routine to one such activity. You just need to make sure you follow it thoroughly and ensure you do not give it up for anything else. Just like work has dedicated hours, hobbies too, should have a dedicated time.
People often forget themselves as they become engrossed in the demands and distractions of daily life. Taking out time for self takes a backseat to the many responsibilities and obligations that consume time and attention. Appreciating oneself is known to uplift self-esteem, boost self-confidence and lead to better performance at the workplace and more joy at home. On days when you feel extremely low, sad, anxious, or panicky just press that pause button. Take 10 minutes off and quickly list down 20 things which you consider are your strength. Remind yourself of your best self. This is a sure-shot way to lift up your spirits and pump you up for any tasks ahead!
Do something which you count as an indulgence. It’s like rewarding yourself for all the hard work you put in, all the running around you do for yourself and for others, and all the efforts you put in for your family. Now, remember, this does not necessarily need to be fancy. It could be as simple as enjoying your favourite scoop of ice cream, having a candy, watching a part of your favourite movie, having a slice of your favourite cake, gifting yourself a small thing, treating yourself with a good meal, giving yourself a greeting card, or anything that gives you joy. These small joys eventually add up to a good life.
Another fabulous way of taking a mental break is by doing something for another living being. When you give something, you are reminded of your own blessings and worth. Buy someone a meal, give a blanket to someone feeling cold, feed stray animals, give someone a flower, pass a smile, or just give a compliment to someone. There are so many ways of giving back to society that my list can never end. Each person has a different choice when it comes to giving, so just do as your heart says. This is a break that will not just please your heart but will also make someone’s day better.
As challenges crop up in life, self-doubt also creeps in. While there may not be many people who uplift you, you may also tend to add to your existing stress with doubts, fears, anxiety, and negative self-talk. So, another wonderful mental vacation is when you switch off and detach from all the surroundings and say a few words of appreciation to yourself. Now this is a vacation that you can choose to take every day, or multiple times a day, or simply as and when required. It will make you feel uplifted and relaxed each time, for sure.
This is the smallest yet the best vacation you can take at any given time. Remind yourself of the things you are blessed with in life, pay gratitude for them, and smile! It is easy, effective, and always reduces your mental load. As a fun activity, you can count the number of times you smiled in a day and find how your day went on the basis of this count. You’ll be surprised to see the results!
If you pay attention and think, you will realise the things I’ve listed above aren’t very difficult to do. The problem lies in the fact that people do not make time for such things. Most people keep working until their bodies give up and signal them to stop! However, if you come to think of it, do you not deserve small joys daily? You certainly do!
So for your peace of mind, I request you to pick up a few activities from this list and start practising them. You can also figure out if there are any other ways that recharge you and give you a refreshing break from the regular humdrum of life. When it comes to re-energising, there is no word in black and white, it’s to each his own. Just like how while I write this, I’m digging into a slice of mango cheesecake (the healthiest version ever) that I made because cooking is something which feels like a vacation to me. I experiment with healthy recipes every few days to take a break from my routine tasks.
Some other ways I take mental vacations are by indulging in positive self-talk (I do this every single day), by smiling as often as I can, and by practising my hobbies — mostly cooking and painting — this is how I like to unwind. And whenever I cook, it becomes an indulgent treat for me and my family.
As a lifestyle choice, I walk daily and I do it without my extended body part, a.k.a. my mobile phone. That’s how I end up smiling at people, noticing plants, trees, and birds around me. Also, those who know me well know that I’m a goofy person who likes to joke a lot, I laugh a lot and I’m always doing silly stuff around my people. I think for my mental breaks, I practice almost everything I’ve listed above.
While you work for everything and everyone around you, taking a mental vacation is essential for your overall well-being. Your brain and body need a break from the daily stressors and responsibilities. Giving yourselves the time to disconnect and recharge will allow you to return to your tasks and relationships with renewed energy and dedication. When you prioritise mental vacations, you immensely reduce feelings of burnout, anxiety, and depression. By taking care of your mental health, you can lead happier and more fulfilling lives. Try it!