Betty W. Phillips, Ph.D., Psychology
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Let's Plan a Vacation!

Let's Plan a Vacation!

It's summertime and the living is easy. Let's forget about all these psychological problems and plan a vacation! Oh yes, the vacation will be fun, blissful, peaceful, exciting, in general: fulfilling our needs for rest and relaxation. We've worked hard all year, so why not have a blast? We will be rejuvenated as will other friends or family members accompanying us on our vacation. Forget the cost; our plastic will carry us over.

If you've read my column before, you may be thinking, why is Betty Phillips not talking about problems? I bet she's going to give us some advice about vacations. She's probably even going to spoil the fun. Well, dear reader, I don't want to spoil the fun. In fact I want to encourage you to have fun. But, once a psychologist, always a psychologist, and I just can't keep myself from offering advice. So, read on.

Actually, vacations are a great idea. My website contains information about the importance of keeping balance in our lives (Advice Line section) and the importance of self-care (Reading Room section). All work and no play he is a recipe for disaster. A little research into leisure time and vacations in other countries will show you just how overstressed and fun deprived we are. Productive and meaningful work is very important, contributing to our self-esteem as well as our financial stability. Our families are proud of our work accomplishments. Yet we will not be able to continue being productive unless we are able to schedule regular breaks for rest and relaxation as well as fun and play. Without this balance and without self-care, we end up frazzled, irritable and vulnerable to heart attacks or strokes. So let's go on vacation!

Unfortunately, we often enter into a delirious stage of vacation planning where we hope to accomplish too much in too little time, without thinking in advance about our objectives. Can you, in a week, actually rest and relax, catch up on your sleep tour around and see the world, strengthen your couple/family relationships, eat great food, exercise, catch up on your reading, check e-mails and send blackberry messages to your office, and emerge from the week with great memories and some cents left in your pocketbook? Or will you end up frustrated and overtired, with spoiled itinerary, lost luggage, sick and suffering from travelers revenge, angry spouse, crying children, and lots of bills?

Obviously from the information above, I think it's very important for you to decide on your goals for a vacation and plan vacation time in such a way that the goals are achievable. I'd start by leaving the e-mail and blackberry at home, since work can intrude in unpredictable ways to interfere with even the best vacation plan. Then I would plan the time to accomplish one or two goals, not cram all of your positive goals into one week. If you want to tour a foreign country, spend a lot of time planning ahead and realize that the time may be exciting and stimulating but also jet lagged and not restful. A week of R&R on the beach may achieve one goal, fun, playful and rejuvenating (as long as you bring the sun block lotion.) Or you may choose to have several objectives and therefore schedule rest days as well as touring days. Unless you travel alone you will be well advised to consider the needs and desires of all of your traveling companions. Your spouse should be consulted and agree with the plan, and you will surely want to set aside time for love and romance. Children can be quite a challenge on vacations, and their needs should be considered and their personal fun stuff should be brought along to occupy their time.

Have you ever considered alternatives? One alternative is a vacation at home. The housing and travel costs are already paid. This concept is a great idea as long as you do not use it to finish housecleaning or yardwork chores. You can plan time at the pool, day trips, sleep-in times, and you can afford dinners at the best restaurants. Just be sure to let everyone know that you are on vacation and will not be fufilling your usual roles and responsibilities.

Another concept is to spread out your vacation time throughout the year. How many long weekends can you schedule throughout the year instead of that one frantic week in the summer? Most schools will let children take homework and make up time as long as teachers are consulted. What better task for a child to complete on a day trip, doing homework while the parents explore a new vacation site within driving distance and a peaceful overnight at a motel or bed and breakfast. Or leave the kids with grandma. My advice is to be sure to take all your vacation days and not short yourself because the office wants extra work.

So enjoy your vacations!