You don’t need to travel to get the benefits of a vacation. Here are several ways you can create that ‘away’ feeling without ever leaving home.
Shelter-in-place orders have undoubtedly left many of us stir-crazy and more in need of time away from our routines and day-to-day responsibilities than ever. While many businesses and amenities have already reopened, there are plenty of valid concerns that may make you hesitant to travel for pleasure anytime soon (including recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention against unnecessary travel).
Happily, you can still score that vacation feeling without ever leaving your house.
“The idea of a staycation is to do all the things you would do if you were to travel somewhere, but finding ways to incorporate those experiences within your own home,” says Catherine A. Sanderson, PhD, the author of The Positive Shift and chair of the psychology department at Amherst College in Massachusetts. Re-creating those relaxing vacation vibes at home can help decrease stress and strengthen your mental well-being, she adds.
It’s especially important to find opportunities to “get away” right now – at least away from our usual routines and the potential stressors of day-to-day life. After all, our homes have been working double- or even triple-duty as offices, day-care centers, schools, and gyms for the past few months, Dr. Sanderson says. You may find yourself associating your home spaces with chores, stress, and work deadlines. Injecting some fun and relaxation into your home is the perfect way to dial back some of those negative associations and make your home feel like home again.
Plus, taking a staycation may be a safer option than your usual getaway, since air travel is still being monitored, and cities are at different phases of reopening their economies. “Staycations will be the safest way to get leisure off-time for a while,” says Sanam Hafeez, PsyD, a psychologist in private practice in New York City and a faculty member in the clinical psychology department at Columbia University.
While you may not be able to match a relaxing island getaway or a couple’s trip to Paris, you can do the next best thing: Turn your home-office-gym-day-care center into a self-care haven. Bonus: Staycations tend to be way more affordable than other types of getaways.
Here are several ideas for creating a staycation that will leave you feeling refreshed – not stressed – no matter how much time or cash you have to make it happen.
Re-create the Spa Experience at Home
If you like visiting spas when you go on vacation, try to replicate that environment at home, Sanderson says. Pick up some fresh bath towels, scented candles, and bath salts. Run a hot bubble bath and round out the ambience with some soothing music and your favorite book.
Or spend a day teaching yourself how to do the perfect manicure and pedicure, detoxifying facial, or exfoliating body scrub.
Become a Tourist in Your Own Community
Chances are there are tons of great places to see in your own neighborhood. “So many people don’t appreciate the things that are right around them,” Sanderson says. Take a day (or weekend) to explore your town and visit any tourist attractions, parks, and local businesses you’ve never been to before. Everyone in your family can take turns picking where you go and what you do. (Do wear your face masks and practice social distancing.)
Visit green spaces like parks for added benefits: A study published in June 2016 in Scientific Reports found that people who spend time in green spaces often have lower rates of high blood pressure and depression.
When you become a tourist in your own community, you not only feel that same rush of fun and excitement that you experience on vacation, but you also help out your local economy. “Businesses in your neighborhood are hurting,” Sacramento CA health coach says. “After the financial hit that communities across the country have felt, it will be extremely gratifying to know that your staycation can help rebuild your community’s economic systems.”
Take a Meditation Retreat Every Day
Daily mindfulness meditation is like a mini staycation that can help you clear your mind and bring your awareness back to the present, giving you a much-needed break from everything happening around you. “This is the time when nothing has to get done and there’s no fire to be put out. Every email sent will still be there later, because life isn’t only about getting chores done,” says Karen Dobkins, PhD, a mindfulness adviser and a professor of psychology at the University of California in San Diego.
How long you spend practicing mindfulness is less important than how committed you are in the moment, Dr. Dobkins says. In other words, five minutes of dedicated mindfulness meditation will probably be more beneficial, than an hour of distracted meditation. So, set aside a reasonable amount of time for you and your schedule, and protect that time by shutting yourself in a room where you can practice mindfulness without interruption.
Bring Your Fantasy Vacation Destination to You
If your summer bucket-list trip to Italy was canceled, bring Italy to you, Sanderson says. Play Italian music, watch a movie or show based in Italy, eat Italian food, and drink Italian wine. If you have some extra cash – as in, the cash you were going to spend on your trip – import goods straight from Italy. Wherever you’d like to escape to, try to re-create the environment as closely as possible. “Small shifts in the environment can have a major impact,” Sanderson says.
Set Clear Boundaries with the People in Your Life
One of the best parts of going on vacation is disconnecting from work texts, phone calls, and emails. But when you’re stuck at home, it can be hard to escape those stressors – especially if people know they can still get in touch with you whenever a question or crisis arises.
When you take a staycation, treat it like any other vacation: Block off the time in your calendar, set up automatic email responses, and be sure to tell everyone you won’t be available for phone calls or meetings. Power down your computer and challenge yourself to use your phone sparingly. “This includes checking in on everyone; or planning things to do when you get back to the ‘office,’” Hafeez says.
If you have someone filling in for you at work or helping out with the kids, elderly parents, or pets, make sure they have all the support they need; and get in touch only if or when there’s a real emergency.
Have a Movie Night with Your Family
Pop some popcorn, pull out the cushions and blankets, turn off the lights, and spend the night watching movies with your nearest and dearest. You can splurge and rent the movie you wanted to see in the theater; or have your family members take turns choosing a movie.
Go ‘Camping’ Right in Your Own Living Room (or Backyard)
Set up the tent, grab your sleeping bag and flashlight, and play a nature soundtrack on your phone or speaker to approximate the camping experience in your living room. Or, if you’re lucky enough to have a backyard (or open camping grounds in your area), pack up your camping supplies and head outside.