Summer Vacation Vexes
Don't let travels stress you out. Plan a trip that relieves
SUMMER VACATION. Nothing calms a frenzied mind more
than the thought of a relaxing escape-until the reality of planning
one sends you into an international state of stress. Where to go
and stay? Who has the best day
spa? What activities will the whole family enjoy? Who will
watch the dog? How will the office manage without me?
Navigating travel details can make the most intrepid spirit want
to stay home, but Kathleen Hall, Ph.D., founder and CEO of the
Atlanta-based Stress Institute and author ofA Life in
Balance: Nourishing the Four Roots of True Happiness, says
the antidote to a stress-free vacation is simple (take a deep
breath): It's all about planning. "Without a de-stressing plan, we
react to uncertainty and become hypervigilant, which creates a
spiral of descent," Dr. Hall says.
Here, the stress expert offers advice on how to reduce common
vacation irritations so your trip results in rest, not regret:
Build itinerary consensus. For a family vacation,
Dr. Hall suggests everyone get on the same page about the
destination, hotel, activities and budget. "When everyone is
involved in planning, it creates the right attitude from the onset
and helps to manage conflict down the road," she says. "It also
eliminates the 'blame game' if a negotiated plan fails to fulfill
Forget Rome in a day. Trying to jam too many
sightseeing attractions and activities or canvassing multiple
destinations during one trip is misery guaranteed, says Dr. Hall.
"It's exhausting and makes everyone irritable."
Create personal space. The world is your oyster,
but traveling with family members can make you feel as if you are
choking on one. Dr. Hall recommends planning shared trip activities
as well as factoring in "me" time to pursue personal interests,
perhaps one to three hours each day. For instance, if you're
traveling in the U.S., schedule a massage at one of more than 600
Massage Envy locations. "Individuals need to honor their own space
so that the family doesn't become overwhelmed."
Get real, not lost. Vacation should equal
relaxation-and fun. Set realistic expectations and don't lose
yourself in the picture-perfect travel ideal portrayed in glossy
postcards. "It doesn't exist and you'll just end up disappointed,"
Dr. Hall says. "Rather than trying to create a black-and-white
experience, view it as an odyssey or adventure."
Set boundaries. Establish parameters with
co-workers, the pet sitter-anyone you're indebted to back at
home-about if, how and when you will stay in contact. Then set a
time for checking and following up on e-mails and voice messages.
"It makes everyone anxious if you are not clear how this will be
handled," Dr. Hall says. "Once you do, it creates a sense of
personal power and reinforces fun."
Expect the unexpected. No amount of planning can
prevent a universal travel truth: Stress happens. Plane delays,
long airport security lines, closed restaurants and hotels not
meeting your standards. Yet, you can manage your reaction to things
that are out of your control. When Dr. Hall and her husband
traveled with their young daughters, she would put a positive spin
on unforeseen events by saying: "Well, isn't that interesting?"
Beware of vacation baggage. According to Dr. Hall,
everyone goes through disorientation the first week after vacation.
"Expect some loneliness and isolation as everyone resumes their
routines," she says. "People also tend to evaluate their jobs,
family dynamics and marriage. Be aware that you are in transition,
and that frustration, anger and judgment might surface. Humans
don't process feelings well, but don't ignore them. Writing in a
journal helps me work through my emotions after a trip."
And keep in mind that jet lag can exacerbate your murky
mood-give your body and mind time to readjust by scheduling a
-By Sally J. Clasen