opinion | How to relax on vacation after not relaxing for two years

you might think Well you had a toddler what do you expect? But it wasn’t just that. I was also exhausted from what felt like 36,902 months of Covid and other terrible world events. When we finally boarded the plane, I was wrapped tighter than my stuffed holdall.

opinion interview
What will work and life look like after the pandemic?

Basically, these are small challenges, I know. We were fortunate to have the freedom, means and health that this style of travel requires. But for a few days, that kind of sane perspective and good old gratitude was largely beyond my imagination.

First, I was flattened by what I would modestly call a “travel belly”. Then I became scared of surfing waves that seemed too chaotic and powerful for my abilities. A cool, billowing mist kept me from unrolling the sundresses I’d carefully packed, and I ended up wrapped in the same milk-stained sweatshirt I’d worn on the plane (and about two years before the trip).

For the seasoned traveler, such hiccups are just that—hiccups. But instead of putting on some SPF and a smile like I might have done in 2019, I turned around: Here we were at last on our big vacation that I’d been looking forward to for months, and I wasn’t even having fun. And then I beat myself up for not enjoying myself. When I made the mistake of opening Instagram, as one normally does when ending up in the toilet multiple times over the course of a morning from a stomach bug, I was inundated with action shots of friends happily basking in the sun splash. Scrolling through the news was worse: it was all horrific, and I felt guilty for feeling sorry for myself in the midst of all the real suffering in the world.

There’s a concept known as “psychological flexibility” — the trait that helps us go with the flow in an unpredictable or stressful situation — Los Angeles-based therapist Stephanie Pearl told me. Covid gave us very real and frightening reasons to try to control our circumstances and environments, leaving us few opportunities to tap into the psychological flexibility that could help us cope with a planeload of unmasked tourists or a jetlagged toddler to become. “We couldn’t practice releasing our grip,” Ms. Pearl told me. “And the control that we had came from a fight-or-flight place.”

In this context, my total inability to relax didn’t seem quite so absurd. During one such episode, Ms. Pearl advises acknowledging her feelings and allowing yourself some patience and compassion: “We drive ourselves crazy trying to say, ‘How can I do this better? Can I find another route in a traffic jam? Can I do a weather dance?’” she told me. “And sometimes it’s just acceptance: going into the moment, accepting what is, and trusting – trusting that may not be the best moment of the holiday, but there can still be good moments of the holiday.”

Comments are closed.