Counseling Corner: Is your summer vacation really a vacation?

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A vacation is a chance to get away from the normal routine of work and demands of daily life. When done right, a vacation should be a period of relaxation, enjoyment and recharging yourself. Research has shown that a vacation with those close to us is a shared experience that makes us happy, and continues to do so when we relive the experience afterwards.

But done badly, summer holidays can produce enough stress that some people need to return to daily life to rest up from that ďvacation.Ē

A relaxing summer holiday simply requires some planning and careful choices. A good vacation isnít about how long it lasts or where you go, but rather about what you do with your time, and the choices made to help you relax.

Most important is not trying to do too much. Experts suggest staying in fewer places for longer periods of time makes it easier to relax. Similarly, donít try to pack in too many activities. Scheduling is fine, but you donít need to fill every minute. Plan some free time when relaxing is your only goal.

For a family trip, reduce conflict and complaining by planning activities that will satisfy at least some of the needs of all family members. Talk with your kids about the trade-offs. Some things being planned will be to keep them happy, but help them understand that other activities are to keep mom and dad happy, too.

You can also reduce vacation stress by being realistic about work obligations. Constantly worrying about whatís happening back in the office is not a way to relax. If you canít totally escape work issues, plan some specific work time. Set up an afternoon when the family can disappear to have fun and you can check in with the office and clear up any problems. When thatís done, get back to your vacation and relaxing.

Your goal is to make vacation time restful and fun. Donít stress out by worrying that everything youíve planned has to happen and has to be wonderful. Accept that your schedule is flexible, and if you discover something new and interesting, take the time to enjoy it. What you donít want is a schedule packed with activities that will leave everyone feeling tired, cranky and overwhelmed.

Keep your vacation simple, under-scheduled and flexible, and you have a better chance of coming back truly refreshed and reinvigorated.

Counseling Corner is provided by the American Counseling Association. Send comments and questions to ACAcorner@counseling.org or visit www.counseling.org.

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