A few months ago, I was at the gate at Philadelphia International Airport, preparing to take off for Miami. Around me, passengers hurried to find their gates. Children asked their grownups for what—I could only assume—was their fourth snack. Everyone moved around chaotically, searching for their next destination. At the same time, I sat happily in my seat, devouring an egg and cheese sandwich, and quietly flipped through my magazine. I basked in that moment. My fellow mom friends and I would be drinking prosecco while blissfully lounging by the pool for the next three days, so I was in full-blown vacation mode.
When I returned from Miami, everything felt different. I left Philadelphia feeling depleted, and I came back a new woman—recharged and ready to take on anything that came my way. Everything felt fresh and exciting, and I was up for new challenges. I wanted to make that post-vacation feeling of optimism and excitement last as long as possible. This left me thinking: How can I replicate this feeling in my everyday life even when I don't have a vacation planned? How do I make #MomsInMiami last as long as possible without being poolside?
Caroline Given, a life coach and therapist, likens a post-vacation mindset to an impressionist painting. When you look at the painting up close and eventually move away from it, you can see the complete picture from a different perspective. "What looked like arbitrary blobs of paint up close forms something tangible when you take a step back," Given explains. "Vacations provide that clarity and perspective when you return home. You can see the big picture, differentiate your priorities, and feel mentally and emotionally refreshed."
Given adds that on a daily basis, we're typically operating on autopilot with a flurry of activity that can be distracting and overwhelming. "Even if you're not particularly stressed or burned out, everyday life can make us myopic. We can start making poor decisions, ignoring or diminishing our accomplishments, and lacking gratitude." According to Given, our endless to-do lists, overwhelming email inboxes, and Slack notifications can cloud our natural sense of what requires your urgent attention. She recommends asking yourself what three things are a priority and structuring your time accordingly.
To help bottle that post-vacation mindset without creating resentment in your non-vacation life, we spoke to a few experts for their tips. Read on for their thoughts.
Meet the Expert
- Sanam Hafeez, Psy.D, a licensed psychologist and faculty member at Columbia University, is the founder of New York City–based Comprehensive Consultation Psychological Services.
- Jessica McCoy, LMFT, is a licensed marriage and family therapist based in Nashville, Tennessee.
- Caroline Given, LCSW, is a licensed therapist providing counseling and coaching to busy millennials.
Tap into your sense of wonder
When booking a trip to Europe isn't financially feasible, you can still tap into your sense of wonder. According to Given, changing your physical environment is vital. "Even if it's just [a staycation] to the town next to yours or a hotel in your city, anything you can do to introduce newness in your life benefits your mind greatly," she says. "I'm also a big fan of engaging in art that forces your attention away from daily life,", adding that going to a movie or seeing a live performance is vastly different than scrolling on your phone while Netflix plays in the background. McCoy recommends visiting state parks or exploring local restaurants as a powerful way to satisfy your sense of curiosity.
Hafeez recommends taking a language class or a cultural course on food, music, or literature. "You can meet people with similar interests who could become groups for future travel. It's incredible what happens when you open yourself up to that possibility," she says.
Journey back to nature
Remember how you loved going outside as a child? Give yourself a nature break as an adult. Studies show that spending time in nature is connected with feelings of happiness and can reduce stress and anxiety. "The more you can be engulfed in nature, the better," Given says. "Even in urban environments or places that might not have a lot of green space, it’s worth it to go to an area where you can relax outside." Even in New York City, Given tries to take regular walks by the water or to Central Park to have peaceful moments in nature.
Find ways to replicate the stillness of vacation
One perk of vacation is waking up and not feeling rushed to be somewhere. There are ways to incorporate this type of stillness into your everyday life. "Use your commute for quiet and introspection," McCoy says. She suggests adding journaling to your evening routine or sitting outside without headphones or digital devices for 15 minutes. "Add a short mindfulness practice or build deep breathing into your workday."
Given notes that even when there are reasons not to spend time outside (weather, time, or safety), she tries to find large and quiet indoor spaces she can use to incorporate more stillness in her daily life. "Churches and other religious centers are often open to the public and are a nice place to have reflective moments even if you don't identify with any spiritual practice."
Make small daily changes that break up your routine
Whether you book weeks or months in advance, knowing you have a vacation brings excitement and a change to daily routines. "Most of us amp ourselves up for weeks leading up to a vacation—so much of it is a mindset," Hafeez says. We can apply this same anticipation to our weekends or other events in our lives. She notes that it's about having a break from routine that’s exciting and offers a reset. "Visually, mentally, and emotionally, vacations allow us to reflect and give us permission to enjoy simple things and feel like we are treating ourselves even when we are not," she adds.
Hafeez notes that these small daily changes can include reading a magazine (even when it's just for five minutes), going for a short walk, taking five to 10 minutes to enjoy your coffee or bedtime tea, or even dressing up. "Make small changes in your home that liven things up visually. A nice throw blanket, pillow, painting, or photograph can make your space feel new." She also suggests scheduling a fun non-work activity, for example, looking for upcoming events in your neighborhood like a comedy show or museum exhibit. Adding some novelty to your everyday routine is less about an escape and more about keeping your mental, emotional, and physical health in mind.
Share new experiences with your loved ones
One aspect of vacation I love is the chance to connect with loved ones and share new experiences. Hafeez recommends planning time with your family to nurture connections beyond vacation. "Going on walks with family during the week is a great place to start," she says. "Try to leave your phone at home or keep it off so that you can be fully present."
McCoy adds that it is important to set intentions and have discussions with your loved ones. "Talk to your loved ones about what shared experiences you want to experience this year and then schedule them," she says. The good news is: Plans don't have to be grandiose. You can schedule a bagel and coffee date with your friends and plan more elaborate moments down the line.
Create small self-care routines
"Use your senses to replicate your vacation experiences," McCoy says. "Buy candles that smell like your favorite destination. Listen to music that reminds you of where you like to vacation or create a playlist for your trip and listen to it when you're back home. Re-create a favorite vacation meal or try a local restaurant that reminds you of your favorite getaway." Hafeez recommends consistently creating small home self-care routines so you don't need a vacation to introduce calm in your space. For example, listening to music while you cook or spending a few extra minutes in the shower.
Above all, take the time to reflect on what about vacation helps you feel like your best self. McCoy suggests naming the top three aspects of vacation you enjoy most whether it's nature, connecting with friends, eating great food, disconnecting from work, or simply having some time to think. From there, find simple and creative ways to add these into your life. As a mom of three small children, that means waking up 20 minutes before my kids so I can enjoy a cup of coffee in silence. Sure, it isn't a beach in Miami, but it positively impacts how I start my day, which is equally worth it if you ask me.