The Mindful “Staycation” for Burnout and Stress

Let’s talk about staycations. For the record, I am a person who has a deep appreciation for the English language and the words within it. That love is mirrored by my disdain for made-up words like “staycation”, but it really does fit the bill better than anything else, so here we are. But I digress…

There are times when individuals become stressed, overwhelmed, or generally mentally unwell. Maybe it is from burnout, a significant event that sends one spiraling, or a series of life challenges. Whatever the culprit, one strategy some people use to deal with those feelings is putting their life at home on pause and taking a vacation, or at least fantasizing/planning one. While that is nice for those people, there are a couple fallbacks to this strategy.

First, this simply is not sustainable for most people. Maybe finances are tight, or children pose a travel barrier, or one can’t take time off of work. There are plenty of reasons why someone wouldn’t be able to just get up and leave when things get a bit rough. Second, and I’ll argue most importantly, this sets one up for a lack of balance when it comes to finding contentment in life. It has the potential of pulling one from the present moment with an all-too-alluring focus on the future. Thoughts like “Ugh I can’t wait to get out of here” or “Just one more day of this and then I’ll be at the beach” can certainly provide hope and comfort in times of challenge, but I’d argue that a focus on gratitude in the present brings much more long-term contentment.

To be clear, I’m not saying there is anything wrong with traveling and taking vacations, or being excited about them. I’m saying when that is one’s sole strategy to meet needs for ease, peace, and contentment, they might be sacrificing sustainability, mental well-being, and/or balance. So how does one set themselves up for contentment long-term? The short answer is regular and consistent self-care. That can look like so many things, but today I’m focusing on the strategy of the mindful staycation.

How To Set Up And Enjoy Your Mindful Staycation

  1. Think about your time. How much time can you realistically dedicate to yourself? And do not judge yourself for the answer. Whatever you’ve got, work within those means. Maybe it is a three-day weekend. Maybe it is an hour. Be realistic and figure out when you can set aside that time for yourself.
  2. Make boundaries around this time. My husband and I put our self-care time in our calendars so that it is blocked off and we know not to schedule anything else during that time. Find a strategy that works for you, but make sure you communicate those boundaries with the people who need to know – family members, significant others, co-workers, friends – anyone who might otherwise try to fill that time with something else. Be firm and know that it is okay to take time for you.
  3. Set an intention for your time. This could be to relax, recharge, or simply to be more present. Having a clear intention will guide your activities and help you stay focused throughout your staycation. Think of this as an opportunity to slow down, disconnect from distractions, and reconnect with yourself and your surroundings. What do you want out of the experience?
  4. Create your environment. What this looks like is going to depend on your intention in step three. Maybe you transform your home into a sanctuary of tranquility. Consider de-cluttering your space, light some candles, or play soothing music to create a calming ambiance. You can even incorporate elements of nature, such as plants or flowers, to bring the outdoors inside.
  5. Unplug from technology. One of the key aspects of a mindfulness staycation is to disconnect from technology. Put away your phone, turn off the TV, and log out of social media. Instead, focus on activities that promote mindfulness, such as meditation, yoga, or simply enjoying a quiet moment of reflection. This is something that most people never do, and it can be a little scary for some. I truly believe that sitting with oneself without the distractions of the modern world can be incredibly enlightening and healing. Remember that all of those notifications, advertisements, and even simply the blue light of a screen can pull you from presence, change your brainwaves, and even affect your hormones.
  6. Practice mindfulness activities. Use this time to engage in activities that promote mindfulness and presence. Take a mindful walk in nature, savor a cup of tea or coffee, or try your hand at a creative pursuit like painting or writing. The key is to fully immerse yourself in the present moment, paying attention to your thoughts, feelings, and sensations without judgment.
  7. Cultivate gratitude. Practicing gratitude can help shift your focus from what’s lacking to what’s abundant in your life. Take a few moments during this time to reflect on the things you’re grateful for, whether it’s a beautiful sunset, a supportive friend, or a moment of peace and quiet.

Now, a staycation is certainly more sustainable than a vacation, but it can also provide balance and long-term contentment if you dedicate a little extra intentionality. After your staycation, find what piece(s) of it can become a part of your routine. Maybe it is the entire experience, and you incorporate it into your week every week. Maybe each day you set an intention for the day and cultivate gratitude throughout your day. Maybe you turn off devices every night before bed and light some candles. The point is, this experience should not be a one-and-done. You can start small, but do try to add in elements of your staycation experience into your daily routine and witness those feelings of dread and overwhelm become less severe and/or less frequent as you invite more calm, joy, and gratitude into your life.