Most people look forward to lying on a beach under the hot sun, listening to the sounds of their children splashing in the waves and other folks enjoying their time — most people. For me, it’s the stuff of nightmares.
Sure, it starts off innocent, like a toddler before they go quiet, and no tiny human means impending shenanigans. “Danger!” wails Mom. Add a couple of butterflies attached to anvils, pins and needles in extremities and sweat, and you’ve got my enthusiastic gut reaction to going on summer vacation.
I love my little screecher, but the prospect of more Rugrats, a potentially litter-filled beach, a likely unfamiliar environment and an inability to choose my own food cues the “Danger!” alarm.
I don’t have the stamina others do on certain days, but I know my sensitivities offer me other strengths too. Fortunately, in these dangerous times, I’ve found a few ways to cope and break down the barriers, so I can enjoy being with my family and watching them have fun on summer vacations. Here are my best tips for you.
1. Help With the Organization
If you’re part of the planning committee, you know more about what to expect and can compromise to have some safe places for yourself. Since you deal with anxiety, you’re more empathetic when it comes to the needs of others, especially your loved ones. So they can trust you with helping to iron out the little details.
If confirming booking isn’t for you, focus on those little details — coffee shops, breakfast spots, parks, weather-ready wear and travel pillows. Giving yourself a job will redirect anxious energy into productive energy.
2. Remember That E-Noms Are Mandatory
Some people swear by Emergen-C, and I swear by Emergency Noms. They’re known as E-Noms in my family, and I pack all my favorites — especially personalized trail mix. I also include dried apricots, which have loads of nutrients and 16 percent of the daily fiber requirement. I don’t load up on calories, and I still have the energy to go through the day instead of just crashing in my bed. I feel more satiated and fewer butterflies fluttering around in there.
When you get anxious, food can be the last thing on your mind. It’s best to think ahead and pack those E-Noms. Summer beach trips look more like fall camping trips when you pack the E-Noms, but it’s worth it and effective. Mix that with Netflix — because Netflix is always portable — and you’re golden.
3. Create a Coping Kit
It’s like a first aid kit, but you add in fun with the Band-Aids. They should definitely have cartoon characters. I also prefer to nurture my inner child with Play-Doh, adult coloring books and crazy straws. I add puzzles, books and a journal too.
The Play-Doh gives my hands something to concentrate on, and the actions help me focus on a small detail that’s not my brain going wild. When I’m on the beach, I do the same thing with the sand. I love building sand castles with my little girl.
4. Design Rituals, Especially a Family Ritual
Routines and rituals matter for those with anxiety. It helps ground and calm us. Stick to your routines as much as possible. If you run in the mornings, map out your route while on vacation. Invent a new routine for when you go on vacation to give yourself more stability and something to expect and take comfort in.
A family ritual is also special because it’s something unique to that time, and you can look forward to it. You won’t want to miss out. My family and I take a walk to collect seashells. We take them home and turn them into a growing collection of seashell art creations — some of which I’ve given to family and friends.
5. Give Yourself Transition Time
When you take off work, give yourself time to ease in and out of your vacation time. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have jet lag. When you get back, give yourself permission to crash and adjust back into the flow of home and work life. Refocus with one item at a time, and don’t spread yourself too thin. Take it at your pace. Vacation helps calibrate your productivity, so don’t waste those feel-good vibes.
Helping with the organization, packing E-noms and making a coping kit helps me to maintain my stamina throughout the extra-sensory overload that vacations bring, especially when I’m in a place that’s not home. Family rituals and routines help ground me and give me something to look forward to while away.
I honor my need to take it slowly when I get back home and give myself a reasonable amount of transition time. These techniques help me manage my anxiety while chasing my tiny human around on summer vacation. I hope these techniques help you thrive on your vacation too — because the family time is really worth it, just like your health is. You can have it both ways.