Vacations And Stress—Why Are Vacations NOT Very Good For Stress Relief?

by Doc Orman, M.D.

vacations and stressIn my first blog post this week on the topic of vacations and stress, I reviewed some of the good, the bad, and the ugly about using vacations as a means to cope with your stress. 


Today, I want to discuss one other major drawback, which is probably the biggest reason why taking vacations is not a very effective strategy for dealing with stress.

Stress Relief From Vacations Is Usually Temporary

The biggest drawback to relying upon vacations as one of the main ways you attempt to deal with your stress is that the beneficial results (even when things go well) are usually only temporary.

Say you have a very high-stress job and you manage to get away for a week of blissful recreation.  Assuming you can really “disconnect” mentally, physically, and emotionally, and thereby have a very relaxing time, how long will this relaxation benefit persist, once you return home and re-enter your previous stressful surroundings?  Maybe a few days?  Maybe a week or two at most?

So what do you do then for dealing with your stress?   Take another week of vacation?  It’s doubtful most people would be able to do this, and even if they could, it still probably wouldn’t help all that much.  Within a few short days of returning home from any vacation, your stress levels would shoot up to where they were before you went away, so you will be right back in the soup again.

No New Learning Or Transformation

The main reason why I believe vacations are a very poor strategy for helping you deal with your stress is because when you return home from your vacation, you are still the same person you were before you left.  You didn’t learn anything new about how to better understand or deal with your stress.  Thus, there was no deep, personal transformation in your ability to deal with stress more effectively.

Like most other “stress management” techniques, going on vacation to reduce your stress levels is just another way of temporarily reducing your symptoms, without ever learning how to recognize and deal with their underlying causes.

That’s why people rapidly return to their pre-vacation stress levels, because nothing transpired while they were away to make things any different. Sure you may have had some really good times, or you may have had some really cool and memorable experiences, and that’s all well and good.  But what did it do for you in terms of empowering you to deal with your stress once you return home?

Yet despite all these glaring weaknesses of using vacations as a primary means for reducing stress, this coping strategy is still widely recommended by most stress management experts today.  This is one of the damaging aspects of the “stress management mentality” of our times, which I believe does more to disempower people than it does to help them.

In my next and final blog post on this topic for the week, I’ll share some ideas I have for how to make vacations much more potent for helping you relieve your stress.  So stay tuned for this next installment, which will appear on this blog two days from now.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

igor Griffiths August 8, 2012 at 8:09 AM

Well Hello Doc

If you go on a vacation that does not suit your mentality then all you are likely to do is increase your stress level.

I think the best way to reduce your stress levels is to go on vacation and put your house in order perhaps by going and sitting on a hill to reflect upon your life.



Doc Orman, M.D. August 8, 2012 at 9:46 AM

igor: Thanks again for your thoughtful comments. I always look forward to them. I agree that self-relection is a great thing to do, and taking a break from one’s busy work/life routines may indeed be a good opportunity to do some of this. Thanks. I’d be interested to know what you think of my next post on this topic.


Good Relaxation | Mat August 10, 2012 at 7:27 AM


Great post. Very often people find themselves even more stressed after vacation compared to the times before vacation. My experience shows that one key to stress free vacation is planning. If you have a plan for the vacation, you are half way there. The other thing that has to be kept in mind is, that if the plan changes – don´t stress. Little bit of spontaneous action is always welcome.

Best Regards


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