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”. The advice is rooted in good intentions, but it ignores that vacations don’t always work as positively as they are portrayed.
What’s often not discussed—particularly in today’s culture that has elevated the idea of vacation—is that they can “fail” in unexpected ways when you’re not in a good state. Instead of cheering you up, they might make you feel out of place and down.
The reason for that is the inherent expectation baked into the concept of a vacation, which is to have an amazing time. People carry it with them when they take a vacation. However, it’s often overlooked how these very expectations can become a burden—a voice in the head saying, “You’re supposed to enjoy this.”
When people are under such pressure to relax (as ironic as it sounds), positive feelings don’t come by easily. And it becomes evident that the vacation was not the magic pill they thought it would be. A Redditor put it really well:
Depression can sometimes feel worse when you’re doing something that’s supposed to be fun and satisfying. It’s like an extra sting because you’re doing something SO AWESOME but yet you still feel bad and so it’s that much more disappointing.
This sort of thinking intensifies the negative thought process. “Why can’t I even enjoy a simple pleasure of a vacation?”. “I am supposed to feel better, why is that not happening?“.
And the mental state becomes 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 temporary relief.
As boring as it sounds, the journey really has to start within yourself.