The Creative Imperative

How innovation and play beget wellbeing

Your Vacation: A How-To Guide

A vacation is not just a change in location.

It may seem ludicrous to need a How-To Guide for a vacation, but since I have returned from my vacation on Sunday (awesome), I have realized that many people think that a vacation is just a change in location.

 

It's not. 

 

Let me be clear.  I'm not an expert on vacations.  The specifics of your downtime are obviously a matter of personal choice: Whether you are a "Hands Up"/Club Med type of person, or you prefer to take in the flora and fauna in isolation - Henry David Thoreau-style - depends entirely on what brings you joy.  I am, however, an expert in clinical psychology, and hope that my work helps people to lead happy, productive, and creative lives, which is why I have strong feelings about the need for, and the psychology of, vacations.

A vacation is a fundamental break in your focus, efforts, and even your Creative Imperative.  It should help you restore and refresh your energy.  A vacation doesn't just happen, it requires some planning, and the replenishment does not come free with your paid admission to Dollywood.  Vacations do not need to cost a lot of money.  Peace and detachment can be achieved without even leaving your home (see: Staycation), though a change in location is a signal to your mind that you are doing something different, which can help (The "vacation beard" is also a useful strategy).  Taking a break from working or creating doesn't mean that you just don't go into your place of business.  It means leaving it all behind in a very real way.

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Vacations are usually most effective when you change your focus from doing to being.  This means drawing your attention to the present - your loved ones, your surroundings, and yourself.  This can be difficult to do in our modern over-technologized world,  but it is critical.  For many, I strongly advocate the adoption of a TechnoSabbath during at least part of the vacation - this means that, to the degree possible (which is always more than you think) shutting off your Blackberry, iPhone, and even putting a halt to texting for a while - even your thumbs need a holiday. 

Whatever it is that you like to do on your time off, do it with all of you present.  If having tea with the Disney Princesses is your thing, go for it.  But if you spend that time ignoring Ariel because you are on the phone with your boss, you probably won't feel the benefits of the vacation and you will likely burn out or need more time off again soon.  So go with it.  Respect your downtime and let go.  You'll be back at your job and creating soon enough. 

 

 

Ben Michaelis, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist who specializes in helping patients achieve mental health and well-being through creative expression.

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