A lot goes into planning the perfect vacation. You need the right luggage. You have to rally your travel buddies. You need to figure out the perfect balance between active excursions and well-deserved downtime. You have to push through that overpacked to-do list at the office so you’re not stressed about coming back to work afterwards swamped. Perhaps most importantly, though, you need to squelch all of your guilty feelings about going on vacation in the first place.
That’s right; even though you’re excited about your travel plans, you’re probably also worried about how it might look to others that you’re taking time away from work and family. We’ve rounded up six expert suggestions to help you set aside those sneaky feelings so they don’t sabotage your vacay. You’ll travel a lot lighter when you can leave your guilt at home and thoroughly enjoy your trip.
1. Change your mindset
Massachusetts-based licensed psychotherapist Lisa Hutchison notes the importance of mindset when going on vacation. “Instead of feeling like you are taking [time] away from your family [and work], think of your time away as an opportunity to replenish your energy,” she says. “You give more from a full cup.” You’ll be a better employee, boss, friend, partner, mother, fill-in-the-blank when you prioritize that time for yourself.
2. Realize that vacation can help with stress management
When you remove yourself from the typical routine and put up that OOO auto-responder for your email, you do more than just forget all of the triggers that are causing you stress — you learn to actually deal with that stress! “Stepping away from the office allows us the mental space to consider how we tend to handle stress and to work on improving those skills,” Dr. Steven Stein, a clinical psychologist in Toronto, tells us. “Your boss will notice a positive change in your overall job performance when you return.”
3. Focus on what you’ll be doing instead of what you’ll be missing
“It’s not your responsibility to shape your life around everything you’re expected to do,” Minnesota-based coach Rebekah Buege advises. “Shape your life around things that bring you joy and happiness.” Put the family and work commitments out of your mind — at least for the time being — and get excited about all the fun experiences waiting for you on your travels! Being fully present with what you’re doing there will allow you to get more enjoyment from work and family when you get back.
4. Judge whether you’ve “earned” the vacation based on your own standards
It’s easy to question whether or not you’re deserving of a vacation… but that’s only because you’re probably worried about whether or not other people think you’re deserving of a vacation. “Ask yourself if you’ve earned it by your own definition — no one else’s,” Maple Holistics health and wellness expert Caleb Backe says. “If you can honestly say that you have earned the vacation time, then it shouldn’t matter what anyone says or thinks.” But if you can’t shake those guilty feels, it might be because you’re feeling — by your own standards — that you need to put in a little more hard work before you get that downtime.
5. Disconnect from (or at least limit) work emails
If the mere idea of taking time away from the office wracks you with guilt, imagine how much worse you’re going to feel when you can actually monitor the comings and goings of your inbox while you’re on vacation. Assuming you’ve covered all of your bases before you took off (e.g., returned all pressing emails, informed the key players of your impending absence, and designated other people on your team to take care of urgent issues that might come up), you need to let yourself unplug if you want to keep the stress minimal. “If you’re one to worry about what’s going on at the office, I recommend silencing your email notifications so your top assignment is having a once-in-a-lifetime trip,” Topdeck Travel trip leader Sarah Jasmine Labib says. “You can always check when you have some downtime if you are still expected to chime in, but set a couple times per day to do this and stick to that schedule so it doesn’t take over your vacation.”
6. Use your vacation as an opportunity to learn something new
If you’re really struggling to let go of work guilt, think about how you can use your time on the road for some professional growth. Labib credits travel for her communication skills, ability to work with many kinds of people, independence, and general cultural awareness. If you’d rather learn something a little more concrete to take back to your boss, consider reading a professional development book or stocking up on trade magazines for the flight.