For most of us, summer conjures up the idea of vacation. Whether it is going to the beach, traveling to a foreign country or experiencing Disney World, vacation allows us to take a break from our everyday life including work. It’s no big secret that there are numerous benefits associated with taking a vacation, like stress relief, special family time, and mental and physical rest – to name just a few. Sometimes merely planning a vacation promotes anticipation and excitement.
According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary (www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/vacation), vacation is defined as:
Rather than thinking of vacation as only a time for leaving behind something stressful or routine, I have come to see it as an opportunity for proactively adding to my treasure chest through real life exposures. Yes, the kind we refer to in Prolonged Exposure (PE) Therapy.
When I went to Greece recently it was to let go of the monotony and humidity of Washington, D.C., as well as the stress of finally completing a big team project (the Summer Institute). Upon reflection, merely relinquishing these stressors wasn’t all that rejuvenated me. Gaining positive experiences from this vacation also inspired me. Indeed, through several in vivo exposures in Greece, I gained more than I could hope for.
Like our PE patients, I’ve learned that by jumping into new situations or cultures and truly experiencing unfamiliar places like Greece, you discover unforeseen goodness and beauty in the world and people. You also learn that you can literally walk among ancient ruins.
So the next time you take a vacation, think of it not only as a respite from something but also as an experiential windfall you can bring home. Then tuck these treasures in your chest and pull them out whenever life stressors are getting the best of you.
Signing off until the next trip…
Respond to this blog by sharing your own vacation “exposures.”
Paula Domenici, Ph.D., is a licensed Counseling Psychologist working as the Director of Civilian Training Programs at the Center for Deployment Psychology (CDP) at Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Maryland. At the CDP, she oversees all civilian courses and training programs, and develops and presents workshops on deployment-related topics for military and civilian clinicians across the country.