Change is hard
Taking ourselves outside of our normal routine can be stressful, according to Howard Tinsley, PhD, professor emeritus of psychology at Southern Illinois University. “All of those things that fit into our daily routine are disrupted when we’re on vacation,” said Tinsley, who specializes in the effects of leisure behavior. “We may sleep in, we may get up earlier, we may eat differently, we may do different things that create stresses that we are not equipped to handle.” And stress from change can increase production of the chemical cortisol that leads to a weakening of our immune system. Some easy activities you can do while on vacation to lower your cortisol levels include exercising, meditating, and listening to your favorite music. Try relaxing activities like a walking tour, a concert, or just peacing out on your hotel balcony with your morning coffee.
You treat vacation like a job
Too much planning and the structuring of activities as things that you “gotta do” while on vacation can turn your leisure time into a job, according to Tinsley—and a rigid schedule doesn’t bode well for stress levels. “On vacation, a person can become goal-oriented,” adds Tinsley. Focus on one main goal a day you’d like to accomplish, instead of a lot of little activities to check off the list. If something doesn’t work out, stay flexible. If you’d like to stay at one activity longer and that means not making it to something else, that’s okay. “It’s important to maintain a sense of freedom of choice,” said Tinsley. “That’s one of the critical elements of leisure.” Check out the travel mistakes that make you more stressed––over-planning is just one of them.