Anxiety is not fun. Being on vacation, for the most part, is fun. So what happens when the two are combined? Well friends, I’d like to share with you what it’s like to deal with anxiety when you’re on vacation. It’s something I’ve been doing for years, and even before the pandemic, I knew there would be challenges when I took time off. But I’ve learned that while there will always be challenges, preparation can make a world of a difference when I try to enjoy my time off.
As I wrote last week, I took time off last week, for what felt like the first time since the pandemic started, to specifically be on a vacation break. I didn’t do much – most of it spent at home with a few days at the beach – but all the familiar challenges of taking a vacation break were there. I was overwhelmed on a daily basis with all the choices I had (what time should I wake up? What should we have for lunch? Vacation can feel like a lesson in decision-making sometimes!), and I wasn’t always certain about what was going on.
While the locations might change over the years, I’ve learned that those same anxieties will persist no matter the situation, and I try to prepare for them the best way I know how. The way I prepare is often a two-step process. First, I acknowledge that things will spin out of my control – it’s inevitable. Then, I make sure I’m prepared for those moments to occur, and make sure I have what I need – mentally and physically – to manage my anxiety.
When I’m on vacation, I admit to myself that I’m going to give in to my anxiety, a least a little bit. I won’t always make the right decision, and I’ll panic a little whenever someone asks me to make those decisions. Crowds of people will make me nervous, and I’ll be a little more lightheaded and sweaty in those situations. Someone will say “it doesn’t matter” when I ask their opinion, and I have to trust that they mean what they say. I could go on, but the main point is that there will be situations that come up on a daily basis that test my limits when it comes to managing anxiety.
But as I’ve learned over the years, anxiety is much less painful when you know it’s going to happen and you prepare for it. That means I bring all of my physical coping mechanisms with me, and even out in public if I need them. That means I mentally tell myself that I know I will experience anxiety, and that it’s okay. There’s no doubt I’ll get overwhelmed on vacation (and yes friends, it happened!), so I remember how I handle that every day and try not to get caught off guard.
I wish I could say that these preparations helped shrink my anxiety, but I’d be lying. I still felt anxiety here and there, and got overwhelmed when I didn’t think I would. And yes, I got disappointed, but for every few steps back, I’d try to continue moving forward. I don’t know if it’s the perfect way to make it through a vacation, but it’s the healthiest way for me to enjoy myself as much as I can while also living with anxiety.