7 staycation ideas to keep you sane

By Physician Sense
Published August 6, 2020

Key Takeaways

Everyone working in healthcare could probably use a vacation right now. Unfortunately, the pandemic has altered our usual approach to summertime relaxation. Air travel, resorts, and even trips to the beach now come with new risks. Some physicians may be thinking, what’s the point of taking time off?

American workers have had a longstanding, adverse relationship with vacations. A 2019 study by the U.S. Travel Association found that Americans failed to use 768 million vacation days the year prior. That’s a 9% increase from 2017, and it equates to a $65.5 billion loss of benefits, the U.S. Travel Association says.

Complicating the vacation aversion is the physician tendency to be “super hero, workaholic, Lone Ranger, perfectionists.” Residency teaches doctors how to grind it out. Unfortunately, physicians who were experiencing burnout prior to the pandemic have been torched by COVID-19. A recent UN report put physicians and other healthcare workers toward the top of it’s list of at-risk populations for pandemic related mental-health issues.

Vacations have proven mental- and physical-health benefits. A Psychosomatic Medicine study showed that in a population of middle-aged men who were at risk for coronary heart disease (CHD), those who vacationed more had a lower risk of all-cause mortality and mortality specific to CHD. Furthermore, a study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology found that health complaints and feelings of exhaustion tend to go down during vacations, and that people tend to feel like their work requires less effort after time away. Researchers said these benefits tend to last for about two weeks following a vacation. 

All of this is to say that you really need a break this summer, doctor. Here’s how to get a much-needed vacation during COVID-19 quarantine.

Inject small doses of novelty

Even if you can’t take an extended vacation right now, you can fill your day with micro-vacations. Humans are creatures of habit, and many of us go about our daily routines without much thought. Something as simple as altering your route to the office, switching up the music you’re listening to in the car or at home, or even sleeping in a different room in your house may make a difference. Small doses of novelty can be mentally invigorating and refreshing.

Spa day

Spending time in a damp, warm, close-proximity environment is a recipe for disaster right now. That being said, we miss the stress-melting experience of a good soak and a massage at a spa. It’s not quite the same, but we can recreate the experience at home. If you have a tub, splurge on some luxurious bath products, dim the lights, and light some candles. Pipe in some soothing music, if that suits you. No tub? Then give yourself the permission to take a long, hot shower. Follow either of these up by trading a massage with your significant other. If you’re flying solo, perhaps splurge on a high-end massage gun. We like the originals, TimTam and Theragun, but you can find more affordable knockoffs on Amazon.

Backyard campout

Even national parks are getting a bit crowded these days. While evidence shows that open-air environments may be safer than indoor settings, most physicians, especially those in hard-hit areas or those treating patients with coronavirus, probably want to avoid crowds. A family-friendly backyard campout will get you outside safely on your own property. Check with your local government on any ordinances regarding campfires before you start making s’mores. If it gets too buggy or hot, you can always move the tent to the air conditioned living room.

Culinary excursion

You can’t travel to Bordeaux right now, but you can sample the cuisine and the vintage. You just have to be adventurous enough to cook for yourself. Think of a place that you’ve always wanted to visit and do some internet sleuthing about the local cuisine. Procure the ingredients yourself either by venturing to the store if you feel comfortable, or using a grocery delivery service. Then get cooking. Pair with a regionally specific adult beverage of your choosing (you can use an app such as Drizly to deliver the spirits), and you have a close approximation of an evening abroad. Maybe cooking isn’t your thing, but you enjoy a fine wine. Wine tastings have now gone virtual. Sommeliers will send you samples for tasting during a virtual discussion. Check out the Educated Grape.

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