Vacation is a time to relax and recharge, but for those of us who like routine, it can totally throw us off schedule — even for days or weeks upon return. Of course, you want to have a good time, one free of the emails, diet restrictions, and the daily to-dos of everyday life, but the goal is to be able to enjoy yourself at an optimal level without setting yourself up for a slump situation when it’s over. In other words, you want to avoid that all-or-nothing approach to vacationing. For example, drinking way more than you normally would just because it’s all-inclusive, and then cutting out alcohol for two months upon returning to even the scale. The same goes for over-eating or over-spending.
Experts agree that this approach is unhealthy. “The all-or-nothing mentality means that there is no middle ground or compromise existing with the choice, decision, intention or action you’re about to take,” explains Gwen Smith, PhD, business success and professional coach and author. The good news: You can enjoy your vacay without going overboard. Here’s how.
Listen to how you talk to yourself
Do you look in the mirror and think negative thoughts about your appearance? Do you ever shame yourself for something you ate or for a sweat session you didn’t show up for? Try paying attention to these negative conversations you might have with yourself internally, as experts agree that they’re dangerous to your self-esteem, even when you are on vacation.
Establish a routine you can stick with
The most important tip to avoiding an all-or-nothing mentality actually starts way before you leave for your trip, says Kerri Axelrod, a certified integrative nutrition health coach and yoga instructor. “It’s important to find a sustainable routine in your day-to-day life, so that when you’re on vacation there won’t be an urge to really ‘go wild’ because your body is in deprivation mode from an overly strict routine at home,” she says. “A sustainable routine at home includes finding an exercise routine and frequency that works for your body and doesn’t overly push you — or in some cases, not challenge you enough — as well as a diet that is guided by healthy principles but not by fear of eating unhealthy foods.”
Choose a few must-dos
Even while you’re on vacation, there’s nothing wrong with carrying out certain aspects of your routine. In fact, Axelrod recommends picking two or three parts of your routine at home that are most important to you and incorporating them into your vacation schedule. The key, however, is letting go of the rest of it. “For example, if meditation is an important part of your routine, or you feel best getting up at a certain time of day, do your best to incorporate those things into your vacation routine and then just relax about the rest,” she adds. As for emails? Those can usually wait.
Check in with yourself
When you use the all-or-nothing approach, does it get you what you want? If your answer is no, you’re far from alone. Robin H-C, behaviorist and author of Thinking Your Way to Happy, suggests allowing yourself to try a new approach instead. “Most of the things we say we want are outside of our comfort zone,” she says. “If anxiety arises, remind yourself that engaging a new habit is uncomfortable and that’s okay — it’s proving a progressive new experience that can lead to you getting more of what you want.”
Find creative ways to move
Instead of spending hours in the hotel gym, Axelrod suggests finding new ways to incorporate movement into your day instead. “Go for a run to explore your vacation destination or take a walking tour,” she says. “Just because you do one form of exercise at home doesn’t mean you have to do that same form when you’re on vacation.”
Scout out healthy staples
Axelrod also recommends spending some time stocking your hotel fridge with some healthy staples that you can quickly grab for breakfast, lunch or snacks. “I like rice cakes, nut butters, protein powder, fruit, vegetables, and non-dairy yogurt,” she says. “This way you can start your day off with a healthy meal or bring a healthy snack with you to prevent blood sugar drops and scrambling for something while you are out.”
Give yourself permission to do nothing
If you’re someone who’s always on the go, it might feel strange to just sit or lie down and do nothing — but that’s what vacations are for! Your body and mind probably need it way more than you realize. “The best and most important gift you can give yourself on vacation is permission to do absolutely nada,” says Amy Kosh, a life coach based in Asheville, NC, and founder of An Unstoppable Life. “That might be giving yourself time to make long phone calls to friends and family you haven’t talked to in months, taking long walks or swimming at the resort.”
Whatever you do, don’t guilt yourself
Experts agree that the all-or-nothing mentality becomes particularly dangerous when the “all” portion results in some form of self-punishment. “You may enjoy that sugary cake, but if it leaves you feeling bloated and unattractive for four days, it’s just not worth it,” says H-C. “Guilt is an emotion many of us were raised with and is designed to remind us to operate true to our value system and get on with it.” If you have food guilt, it means you are punishing yourself for a poor choice. She recommends first recognizing the energy and self-loathing that comes as the fallout of breaking your value system and allowing yourself to feel good by making favorable choices. “Often black-and-white thinking was setup in childhood to survive one’s environment,” she adds.