by Megan Oliverio, M.A.

There is something about the beginning of March that makes it the most challenging time of year for me. The holidays and my birthday (things I typically look forward to) have come and gone, and I feel particularly stressed and unusually pessimistic. While the end of March sees the official beginning of “Spring,” it seems more often that the gloom of winter is still very present. I know that the stress I feel can be combated in a number of ways, but one that I think we all often forget in the hustle and bustle of life is, drumroll please…a vacation!

Vacations are incredibly important to both our physical and mental health. A good vacation can provide us with the opportunity to break from our usual routines, to feel relaxed and disconnected from the stress of life. An effective vacation can be refreshing and sometimes even transformative. Check out this article on the importance of vacations for some important research that backs up this claim; as if we need research to tell us that vacations are good for the soul. Needless to say, I think we can all agree that we are almost always in need of a vacation.

The problem with taking a vacation is the obstacles that stand in our way, not to mention that often times these obstacles are the very cause of our stress. The two largest obstacles tend to be, you guessed it, time and money. But, there is good news…neither are a requirement for a “staycation.” A staycation can give you the feelings of a vacation in a very manageable way.

It’s true, a vacation at home can still be the vacation you’re looking for. Travel time is reduced to nothing, so you have plenty of time to spend in “vacation mode,” even on a short weekend. To save money, stay in your own home and stock the refrigerator with snacks and pre-made meals from the grocery store. If you have some extra money to spend, you can choose to staycation at a local hotel, and eat your meals at all those restaurants you’ve been waiting to try!

Before you get started planning your staycation, here are a few helpful reminders and tips to make sure you’re successful in giving yourself the break you deserve.

*Mind Over Matter*—It’s important to treat your staycation just like any other vacation, look forward to it just like any other trip. Just because you are not in a hotel or a new city doesn’t mean you can’t do all the same things you would normally do on a vacation.

*Put the World On Hold*—Clear your mind and schedule of the things that preoccupy your time during ordinary days. Make an “out of the office” message your e-mail and shut down your computer (unless you’re utilizing it for Netflix, of course), turn your phone on silent, and even consider stashing all the clocks in your closet.

*Don’t Do It*—Don’t cook. Don’t clean. Don’t do laundry. If it is a chore that you do at home and not on vacation, don’t do it! My two words for this situation; Carry. Out.

*Have Fun*—Pick up that book you’ve been meaning to read, have your own film festival, or go out and be a tourist (this is Chicago after all!).