How to avoid the post-vacation blues…
You Deserve A Break
Sometimes the purpose of life can feel like it’s only about endurance. We talk about life being a marathon and not a race. It’s about the journey, not the destination. We work everyday. We take care of our family everyday. It’s easy to forget about taking care of ourselves.
I was recently talking to a past client who told me they haven’t gone on vacation together in almost five years. I’ll repeat that…FIVE YEARS! I couldn’t judge but my heart ached just a little for them and I promptly told them, “You deserve a break.”
We all deserve a break sometimes. Feeling burnt out drastically impacts our ability to do all the things we actually like doing. Our home and the things we love about it start to lose their luster. Being at home can feel like being trapped instead of the safe space it’s intended to be. That’s why vacationing is so important to our well-being!
Why We Return To Burn Out
What is burnout?
An article from the Mayo Clinic defines burnout as, “a state of physical or emotional exhaustion that also involves a sense of reduced accomplishment and loss of personal identity.” This can happen in your work life or from being a stay at home parent. It’s often caused by prolonged feelings of not being in control or being surrounded by states of dysfunction. Extreme levels of activity, going from one thing to the next or having a never ending backlog of tasks or carrying a heavy mental load can contribute to burnout. Also, having a lack of social support can lead to burnout which is very common when one spouse is a stay at home parent. Somehow, the facebook groups aren’t a strong enough replacement for a physical community, although they can sometimes feel like our only saving grace.
The problems are still there.
All too often, we go on vacation and throw all of our problems into the lake (Lake Michigan has an entire floating island made up of my personal head trash) and we drive back feeling refreshed, but then we come back and the problems were still there and nothing has changed. It’s like turning off the news for a week and then going right back to binge watching it on a daily basis. There will never be any deep or meaningful change unless you make the decision to start with yourself and your immediate environment.
Using The Vacation Template
What does a relaxing vacation look like?
Family vacations are a ton of fun, don’t get me wrong. There are a lot of wonderful memories you can create going camping together or visiting a historical city, but if I’m being honest, vacations with the kids are usually a ton of work and often more tiresome than relaxing. We definitely make room for family vacations. HOWEVER, vacations with your spouse and/or alone are usually far more relaxing and they give you the opportunity to reconnect and build dreams together. You need that time to dream separate from your typical responsibilities. As much as you love your kids, you can’t do that when they are in the back seat fighting, asking you to buy things from every shop, being difficult in restaurants and so on. So my first recommendation is to spend at least three days, you and your spouse, in some place beautiful, whether in nature or in a new city where you can fully detach yourself from the weight of everyday problems.
The power of road trips.
My wife and I love road trips because it gives us so much time to do nothing but talk. When one person is driving they can’t be distracted by anything other than conversation. We relish at the opportunity to talk about our dreams and visions for ourselves and for our family. We talk about what kind of home we want to have one day whether it be in the country or in the city or in a suburban neighborhood. We talk about personal styles of homes and features that we don’t have that we hope to have one day. We only fly when getting to the destination within a certain time frame is more important than the journey and time away. More often than not the road trip is as important as the time on the beach or in the mountains because it gives us the time to focus on our connection with one another. We get to joke around and press pause on our responsibilities at home.
Taking in the new scenery.
Part of what’s so great about vacations is the change of scenery. It’s just refreshing to be in a new environment. Whether that’s out in nature, at a hip airbnb in a different city, strolling downtown checking out shops and restaurants you’ve never been to. When we plan these things ahead of time, we’ll sometimes budget for making a decor purchase to help bring home the memory of the place we visited. And that doesn’t need to be some trinket with the name of the location we visited. It can be something like a unique throw rug or a thrift store find. Making changes to your environment are sometimes all you need to make your home feel special again.
Making Your Home A Staycation
OK, so while you were on vacation you finally detached from the weight of responsibilities of work and home life, you spent the time to reconnect with your spouse and you are now fully inspired by everything you saw around you. How do you take that home with you? How do you avoid falling back into the same ruts?
1) Make your home a place where you Can detach
To detach from responsibilities completely, turn off the notifications on your phone so you’re not getting work emails all night. Create a separate place in your home where you can quarantine your children. Seriously. You love them, I get that but they have an infectious disease called “responsibility” and you and your spouse need time with no responsibility. The older they get the easier this is but even in small ways when they are young, create a division between your space and their space. Toys don’t get to leave their space! In order to detach, you might have to get creative with your schedule and how you create space to detach from responsibility and it might not be the way that Joan Cleaver structured her day and evening. That’s okay! It doesn’t have to look a certain way. You will have to work together to create that space and be honest with each other in terms of your needs.
2) Make time to connect with your spouse
Sometimes home life can just feel like a business. You have things that need to get done and you have logistical conversations about how to get those things done. Sometimes that’s what “being” at home becomes. Remember when you were on the road trip, though? And you didn’t talk about anything logistical and you just connected with one another? When you or your spouse comes home, take a minute to just connect. Embrace. Look at each other. Just connect. Don’t go right into everything that is left on your plate for the day. Press pause, just like you did on vacation. Crack some jokes. Take a minute to dream.
3) Change up your home scenery
The last thing that brings our family rejuvenation is making changes to our home environment. We are people that naturally place a high value on aesthetics and so the look and feel of our home is really important to us. Even the way it smells and how clean it’s kept plays a big role in how we feel in it. So along with the theme of keeping that vacation spirit alive, when you come back from vacation start changing those things that bug you. Recently, we got back home from vacation and recognized that it was time for our youngest to move on from her crib. So we decided on a bunk set from ikea called the Kura, which is quite popular. The big benefit here ended up being the extra space it created in their room which allowed them more play space for all of their toys; keeping them out of the living room. This has been the biggest blessing for our shared OCD over the cleanliness of our home.
Guys, the truth is: parenting, maintaining a home, it’s all tough stuff. It’s all never ending. Even when the kids are gone, you can still get into a funk that leaving for a week won’t completely solve. But if you focus on providing space for self-care and connection with your spouse that is separate from your obligations and responsibilities and you bring in a change of scenery to your home, you’ll bring about that self-renewal you were hoping would stick with you after vacation.
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