DR. NEILL: How to max out your family vacation with a smile on your face

Laughter is the best medicine when it comes to enjoying your vacation.

It’s vacation time. Two days from now you have about one-and-a-half  weeks off work. You, your spouse and two tweens are heading off on a camping road trip on the mainland.

You find yourself working like crazy to get ready — there are so many details to think of and organize — and you find yourself wondering why you ever agreed to this type of vacation.

By the time you leave to catch the ferry no one is relaxed. In your exhaustion you fret about what you may have forgotten. Your spouse worked to the last minute to be able to get away and plans to make a couple of last-minute phone calls while in the ferry lineup. The adult stress has spilled over and kids are cranky.

Typical? Unfortunately, the bigger problem is not the preparation itself, but the fact that it may take you the better part of a week before all of you are relaxed enough to really feel like you’re on vacation.

Then, as you finally are able to enjoy the vacation, it’s time to head for home. Were you really on vacation, or were you the butt of a family-style cosmic joke?

Is it possible to minimize this laughable situation and get psychologically into your “vacation mode” closer to the beginning of your vacation? I believe it is, and the key word is “laughter.”

Laugh and joke about the ridiculous number of details you have to look after on both the work and the home fronts before you can leave.

Laugh about the previous times you’ve forgotten something or missed the ferry or another connection.

Laugh with your kids about the hardship of being away from their friends.

Laugh at what stresses you. Laughter reduces the release of stress hormones, thereby inhibiting the fight or flight response.

Laughter creates bonding, and after all, is not re-bonding part of why you would take a family vacation? Laughter helps to control the emotional climate and lowers the risk of confrontation. Laughter harmlessly and subconsciously releases stored negative emotions. And laughter is contagious.

So start laughing early in the vacation cycle and everyone will have a better time.

Mishaps make the best stories, so tell the stories of previous vacation mishaps. And every time there is a mishap or misstep on the trip, laugh about the fun you’ll have back home telling the story.

 

Dr. Neill is a Central-Island Registered Psychologist. You can reach him for an appointment at 250-752-8684 or through his website www.neillneill.com/contact.