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5 Tips for Planning an Amazing Staycation to Rejuvenate Your Mental Health

I don’t know about you, but after the past two and a half years, I’m beyond ready for a vacation. But frankly, the idea of it fills me with anxiety. Never mind the fact that Covid has impacted my financial situation negatively and travel isn’t high on the list of priorities, the idea of going anywhere with people other than my “safe people” is not something that appeals to me at all. I’m hyper-vigilant under “normal” circumstances, but my level of hyper-vigilance now is so amped up that I don’t particularly feel safe anywhere except in my own home.

If you desperately need to get away but can’t for whatever reason, be it physical or mental health-related, consider treating yourself to a staycation. If done right, a staycation can be every bit as rejuvenating and reinvigorating as an actual vacation without the cost or hassle of dealing with travel. Here are five tips for crafting the best staycation:

1. Ditch the electronics.

It goes without saying that many of us live and breathe by our electronic devices. We use them for work, play, communication, and to catch up on news. They are powerfully useful tools, but if you are anything like me, you are on your devices way too much. I find myself mindlessly scrolling and getting sucked into a vortex of depression and anxiety fueled by social media and emails/texts. So to really give your mind and body a complete break, turn your devices off or on silent. Don’t check them unless you have to for whatever reason, like checking in on children or aging parents. But even then, let them know you are taking a break. Unless it’s an emergency, even they can tolerate being out of contact with you for a day or two. Focus on yourself and on what you are doing, and if you are staycationing with a partner, try to focus on them! This is an opportunity to catch up and reconnect. Don’t spend it with your head buried in your devices.

2. Change of scenery.

I know this sounds weird, but part of what makes vacation so relaxing is the change in scenery. Just removing yourself from your normal routine and environment can help release those calming endorphins. If you have a guest room, consider holing up in there. Pitch a tent or just bring your sleeping bags into your living room, basement, or even your backyard. Bonus fun: If you are feeling up to it, build a blanket fort and fill it with your favorite pillows, blankets, snacks, and hobbies. Now you are engaging your playful inner child on top of creating a change in scenery. That’s a win-win!

3. Play some games.

This is something my husband and I do even on vacation. We always bring a deck of cards and maybe one or two other games, like Esther Perel’s relationship game Where Should We Begin — A Game of Stories. Typically we will park ourselves in a hotel lobby with our favorite snacks and beverages and just spend the afternoon together playing. You can do this on a staycation as well, only you aren’t limited by what games you can play because you don’t have to transport a bulky game board. So pull out your favorite games and enjoy connecting over some healthy competition.

4. Don’t forget the food.

I’ve mentioned food a few times. I’m a chef and foodie. No meaningful travel or relaxation ever occurs for me that doesn’t revolve at least to some degree around food. Aside from stocking up on your favorite snacks and beverages (hello dry French bottle of rosé and cheese), consider ordering delivery from your favorite local haunts. Getting food delivered has never been as easy as it is now, so take advantage of that and splurge on some yummy meals to soothe your soul and fill your bellies. It’s kind of the best of both worlds, food you don’t have to cook or clean up after and something you might not prepare at home yourself anyway.

5. Focus on your favorite hobby that you don’t get the time to do on a regular basis.

We all have those things we like to do on vacation that we never stop to take the time to do during the normal fast-paced work/life day. This is your chance to do them. Whether it’s working on a jigsaw puzzle, knitting, reading a book, journaling, or some other kind of craft, incorporate that into your staycation. Here’s the perfect opportunity to dive into a project without any interruptions or guilt that you “should be doing something more productive.” Forget guilt and forget productivity. Indulge in some you time. Your brain and body will thank you.

Bonus: Sex!

Yes I’m going there. There is something very real about vacation sex. Even couples who haven’t had sex in a very long time are often able to rekindle that spark while on vacation. So how does staying at home impact this phenomenon? I think if you are clever, you can conjure some of that same excitement by consciously setting the mood. Consider some candles, maybe some massage, music that will put you in the mood, and anything else that is an accelerator for you. The very act of shutting out daily distractions can help take the pressure off that often is responsible for keeping us from relaxing enough to engage. But…no pressure here. This should be fun and mutually desirable. If all you are in the mood for or have the energy for is some cuddling, talking, and holding hands, that can be every bit as intimate and meaningful. Throw expectations out the window.

The bottom line:

Time off doesn’t have to involve some kind of elaborate destination vacation filled with activities and hustling from one thing to the next. Slowing the pace down and focusing on the relaxation and refueling part of taking a break might be exactly what the doctor and your body/mind ordered. A staycation can accomplish this brilliantly as long as you approach it mindfully and creatively. Relax, kick back and enjoy!

Getty image by valentin russanov.

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