May 17, 2023

For Your Mental Health, Vacation is Not Always the Right Answer

Whenever I read people complaining about burnout, depression, or other mental health issues, I am disappointed how a bunch of the advice is focused on taking time-off, to chill at some beach—to “recharge,” they say. The advice is rooted in good intentions, but it ignores that sometimes vacations don’t work as optimistically as they are portrayed. In fact, they can backfire in peculiar ways.

What’s often not discussed—particularly in today’s culture that has elevated the idea of vacation—is that they can fail spectacularly when you’re not in a good state. I have seen it happen. Some of my vacations were the most amazing moments of my life, but a few times, it just felt pointless and mundane.

There is an inherent expectation baked into the concept of a vacation, which is to have an amazing time. And people carry it when they take it. But sometimes, these very expectations become a burden. They become a voice in the head, saying, “You’re supposed to enjoy this.”

Unsurprisingly, the goodly feelings prove elusive when people are under such pressure to relax (as ironic as it sounds). And it becomes obvious that the vacation was not the magic pill they thought it would be.

The end result? The negative thought becomes even more intense. “Why can’t I even enjoy a simple pleasure of a vacation?”. “I am supposed to feel better, why is that not happening?“.

And these thoughts end up making the mental state worse than before.

This is not to say, vacations don’t help. Often, they can give someone the kick-start they needed to fix their problems. Sometimes disrupting your life just works.

But taking them with the expectation that it will solve your mental health problems is just the wrong way to go about it. And you’re bound to be disappointed. At best, it will provide a temporary relief.

As boring as it sounds, the journey really has to start within yourself.

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