Can a vacation cure burnout? Not as a solo strategy. But a well-designed vacation CAN jump-start your healing and recovery.

What research there is on this question is clear: although your vacation, by itself, will not provide a lasting cure for burnout, today's sneak preview from Save Yourself from Burnout discusses how you can make your vacation into a powerful experience to jump-start your healing and recovery.

(I lightly edited this sneak preview to fit as a blog post.)

Strengthen Your Burnout Shield with a Well-Designed Vacation

In an earlier preview of Save Yourself from Burnout, we talked about burnout as a type of physical workplace injury.  We challenge you to consider burnout as an injury when thinking about your next vacation, because that leads you to set your next vacation's purpose as healing and recovery.

Loomis and Genly's Burnout Shield

How well does your vacation plan cultivate the five Key Areas of your Burnout Shield: Self-Care, Reflection & Recognition, Capacity, Community and Coping Skills? Here's the questions to consider as you plan your vacation.

Crucial Anti-Burnout Vacation-Planning Questions

First, set a priority on your own Self Care. Have a candid discussion about Self Care priorities with those who will share your vacation, and compare your current definitions of “rest and relaxation.” If you are exhausted, sleep may well be your overwhelming need, swamping all your other vacation plans. Setting realistic expectations can head off frustration and disappointment.

Second, consider what activities and scenery would nurture your Reflective mind, your heart and soul.

  • Do you need to turn quietly inward, for meditation or prayer? Or would you appreciate participating in a community that puts meditation or prayer at its center?
  • Would immersion in natural beauty foster your ability for Reflection? If so, is your energy sufficient right now for hiking and camping, or would you be happier at this time staying in a room with a view, near a garden path?
  • Are you someone who enjoys and draws inspiration from viewing great art? What sorts of art?
  • Are you most Reflective when you have an opportunity to actively get involved in creative pursuits? Which arts or crafts? Again, would you appreciate participating in an arts or crafts community?
  • Will humor help you recover your perspective? For you, would that mean hanging out with friends or family who make you laugh, attending comedy shows, or lining up a set of favorite funny movies to watch at home?

Third, how strong is your functional Capacity right now? And how much recovery time is available to you after your vacation is over? Would a high-exertion vacation nurture your Capacity right now?

Also, what is your financial Capacity? Setting a vacation budget that respects your current financial Capacity will help prevent having your vacation add to your stress.

Fourth, in what ways can you strengthen your connections to your Community while on vacation? Who would you love to spend time with? Do you need to make new friends or try out a new social group?

And fifth, how will you bring your Coping Skills to bear on both the delights and challenges a vacation creates?

What Coping Skills will you need to muster to weather travel delays, lost luggage, miscommunication and so on?  What Coping Skills will allow you to fully enjoy the moments and let the frustrations roll off your back?

Pre-Set your Vacation Intentions

While on your vacation, set your intention to stop buzzing. Buzzing is our word for being so busy that you forget how to stop: check email, do some tasks from the to-do list, check email, run errands, call people back, check email, pick up the kids, check email, grab a meal, check email… buzz, buzz, buzz. You may have to live with being a little bored, at first, until the pressure to keep buzzing lets up and you can relax.

Did you know that you can enhance your enjoyment by developing your ability to savor life experiences? Set your intention to pack some of these savoring skills to bring with you on your vacation. (This list is modified from one in a terrific article on UC Berkeley’s “Greater Good” website.)

  • Share your good feelings with others
  • Take a mental photograph
  • Congratulate yourself
  • Sharpen your sensory perceptions – allow yourself to be highly attentive to what you see, hear and feel (avoid multitasking!)
  • Express your good feelings in verbal and nonverbal ways
  • Compare the outcome to something worse
  • Let your attention get absorbed in the moment
  • Count your blessings and give thanks
  • Avoid killjoy thinking
  • Remind yourself how quickly time flies

Expect the Right Beach

Poodle with her ball at the beach.On a recent hot summer day, two women friends took their tall standard poodle and drove to the Oregon coast. It was a beautiful Pacific Northwest morning at the beach. The air was a refreshing 20 degrees cooler than inland, the fog was just starting to recede, and the steel gray ocean was rolling beautiful white topped waves past the silhouetted Haystack rock to the shore.

As they laughingly threw the ball for the dog (who was highly indignant that the ball kept getting sand on it,) a young man approached them. “I'm visiting from Cuba,” he said, as he shook their hands. Then he leaned in close to one of them and whispered, politely, “What is wrong with this beach? It's really ugly!”

It turned out, the poor guy had been expecting a Caribbean beach! His expectations kept him from enjoying the cool, soft, silver/gray/black/gold beauty of the beach he was on.

When you plan your time off, set your expectations for the events you’ll actually be experiencing (which may include a lot of sleeping in.)  If you are expecting a Caribbean vacation when this trip is in the Pacific Northwest vacation, then you will be disappointed, like that young Cuban man. Why not “expect the right beach” from the beginning?

(c) 2017, Marnie Loomis and Beth Genly

Will your vacation cure burnout?  Not by itself.  But a well-planned vacation will jump-start your recovery. Each week I'll give you another Sneak Preview with valuable information on how you can keep your vacation's anti-burnout results alive, long after your vacation is over.

Addendum, July 31, 2017:  Here is the latest version of the survey from CareerBuilder, that shows Americans don't even take vacations we are entitled to, and it's increasing our burnout.