Taking a Break: Vacation and Mental Health

A couple of weeks ago, I embarked on the journey of a lifetime. I gathered my suitcase and flew with my friend and her family across the globe to Kerala, India.

My life at home is nothing short of busy. Between school, SATs, sports, school activities, volunteer work, family, friends and leisure, I often find myself feeling incredibly worn-out and mentally exhausted. On top of this, the anxiety of everyday life constantly takes its toll on my happiness and overall well-being. However, after being in Kerala for only a few short days, I was struck by just how much value this vacation was bringing to my life.

The average person, whether they are a student, stay-at-home mom, or full-time employee, struggles with stress. It is a well-known fact that healthy amounts of stress can increase productivity and motivation, but too much can cause many serious issues. According to the American Institute of Stress, 44% of Americans feel more stressed than they did five years ago. Over time, stress wears us down- and can even cause a ripple effect to those around us. Vacations give us an opportunity to step back from the environmental stressors that can become so integrated in our day-to-day lives. Stepping away from an environment gives a unique opportunity to evaluate it from the outside and consider changes that could be made to improve conditions once we return.

The freedom that traveling provides is also an excellent stress-reliever. When it is no longer necessary to constantly think about paperwork, getting the kids to school or conflicts with friends, once gets more time to consider passions, favorite hobbies and activities that make you happy. The chance to remember we aren’t defined by our stress is a great value.  It’s also a perfect time to try new things and discover different cultures and ways of life that you may even be able to implement at home.

During my trip to India, I noticed how the culture differed from mine back in the States. To me, it seemed that no one in India was ever in a hurry or feeling rushed. The people I met were always very genuine to each other and seemed content. I strive to be this way – easy-going and my real, authentic self. Without all of the distractions that often get in the way at home, I was able to think of areas to implement these qualities in my everyday life.

On vacation, it is also nice to get away from the monotony of routine. We often get so caught-up in doing the same types of activities every single day when we are at home, which can lead to feelings of depression or anxious discontent. Everyone needs a small break every once in awhile to interrupt the routine that they have created. William Feather once said, “one way to get the most out of life is to look upon it as an adventure.” While in India, I learned to appreciate boredom. This gave me time to clear my mind while taking walks in the forest, sitting by the lake or reading outside. Traveling is a perfect time to break your routine and let an adventure give your mind a break from the boring.

Because I traveled without my family, friends or comfort of my own bed for three and a half weeks, I soon missed these things terribly. But upon coming home, giving my family a hug and returning to my comfortable bed for a good night’s sleep, a feeling of extreme happiness came over me. Because I had been away from my normal, everyday life, my appreciation for it had significantly increased. I think this may have been the most valuable insight I gleaned from my vacation.

The average person does not think about the many things they are grateful for on a daily basis. However, being cognizant of the good things and people in our lives increases happiness. And it doesn’t have to be a trip around the world to gain a new perspective; a simple vacation close to home can surely increase the appreciation of the little things. According to a recent study completed by the American Sociological Association, it was found that monthly antidepressant prescriptions in Sweden dropped when more people took vacations. This is no surprise, considering the new perspective and gratitude that can be gained with traveling.

Taking a vacation is beneficial in many ways to the human mind. Not only does it give our brains a break from the constant stress of everyday life, but it gives us a chance to be able to find ourselves and our true passions that we may never have known about otherwise.

References

Hartig, Terry, Ralph Catalano, Michael Ong, and S. Leonard Some. Vacation, Collective Restoration, and Mental Health in a Population. Rep. N.p.: American Sociological Association, 2013. Print.

“Stress Is Killing You.” The American Institute of Stress. The American Institute of Stress, n.d. Web. 08 Aug. 2016.

“William Feather Quotes.” BrainyQuote. Xplore, n.d. Web. 08 Aug. 2016.

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