World Mental Health Day: Here's why you need a staycation ASAP and the science behind it

Dr Wilona Annunciation, Consultant Psychiatrist, explains the importance of staycation and why you need one ASAP, especially during the pandemic.
loneliness,Health & Fitness,staycation,Mental Health DayWorld Mental Health Day: Here's why you need a staycation ASAP and the science behind it
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2020 has been a year of revelations, rude awakenings and most-definitely some valuable lessons. While the socio-economic impact due to the restriction of movement is discussed and debated world over, the psychological impact of Coronavirus and resultant lockdown cannot be ignored. Some scholars have touted this to be the “world’s biggest psychological experiment ever.” The mental toll of the lockdown and Coronavirus has affected millions of households across the globe.

Symptoms such as insomnia, stress, anxiety, anger, irritability, breakdowns, low mood and even post-traumatic stress induced due to extended periods of isolation, lockdown and the virus by itself has taken a toll on individuals both physically and mentally. This coupled with remote working, managing the household and family with limited help, blurring the lines of personal and professional space has resulted in what is commonly known as ‘burnouts’.

According to the World Health Organisation’s 11th Revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11), a burn-out is classified as chronic workplace stress and its manifestations induced by one’s occupation or profession. One way to fight the constant stress and burnout and ensure social distancing and safety at the same time is taking a good old break. While typical vacations might be a far-fetched idea in times of a pandemic, a staycation is slowly emerging as the new way of travel. 

Tackling stress and staycation

The pandemic has given domestic tourism a new lease of life and a short trip to our local destinations to enjoy this staycation, maybe the stress buster you need. Take that road trip you’ve always wanted to or visit the lesser-known destination near your city or town, there is so much left to explore and experience, just a few miles away from you.

Start by picking a destination that is easily accessible via road or is just a drive away. This way you don’t risk exposing yourself to public transport of any kind during the pandemic. Always remember, safety first! Pick your staycation spot with utmost care and consideration. Ensure that you pick a resort, hotel or homestay of your choice, that offer a safe and sanitised experience. Recently many hotels launched measures to increase sanitisation at their properties following prescribed safety measures and SOPs. To enjoy a stress-free staycation, pick a property with a “Sanitised Stay” tag.

If, like me, you look forward to something more than just a weekend getaway or short trip, then work staycation or ‘workation’ might be the answer to your lockdown blues. All you need is a good Wi-Fi connection, some sun, sand, ocean, hills or mountains to break the monotony. Sometimes things as simple as ‘Work with a view’ is the answer to stress and anxiety. 

The Science behind a staycation

Staycations or workations are considered as positive experiences and events. According to research, vacation or a time off has a direct relationship with stress and other medical conditions like metabolic syndrome. A stress-free weekend translates into physical health benefits and reduces episodes of symptoms associated with heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

Research also indicates that vacations have health benefits that extend beyond the actual experience by itself. Studies have recorded reduced stress and ambulatory heart rate in the weeks leading up to a planned vacation. While we learn to live with the pandemic in the months to come, it will definitely do one good to consider a short road trip to take the edge off and escape the ordinary.

Embracing the new normal and prioritising health 

Today the onus is not just on the individual but also on organisations to give mental health and well-being, the due importance it merits. According to a recent study by Gallup, 96 percent of employees experience burnout at some point in their career, some more often than the others. This alarming number is a wake-up call for individuals and organisations to give due importance to emotional and mental health and wellbeing of employees at all times.

The new reality we operate in is a testament to the fact that employee efficiency is not directly linked to their physical presence in the workplace. A recent announcement by OYO in light of the new realities of a workplace implemented the much needed, 5-day work week & “weekend curfew” (no work calls or emails on weekends); a perfect example of how an organisation should put people first, in a high-stress environment that we all live in due to the lockdown and the pandemic. Also, with most of the work and schools going online this could be the quality time you need with your family at a stay suiting your preferences with absolutely no need to take days off. 

So, take that holiday, weekend off, or just a day off to do the things you love! One cannot stress enough on the importance of these little pockets of positivity in our otherwise routine lives. It’s time to start planning your socially distant staycation or “safecation” to an unexplored destination near you.

Authored by Dr. Wilona Annunciation, Consultant Psychiatrist, Institute for Psychological Health (IPH), Thane, and Prafulta, Centre for Psychological Wellness, Mumbai.

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