Highly Sensitive Refuge
A highly sensitive person reads a book during a staycation

The Importance of Staycations for HSPs

For highly sensitive people, there are many perks of taking a staycation, from plenty of alone time to controlling how much stimulation you experience (or not). 

When I mention the word “vacation,” what comes to mind for you? Is it images of sandy beaches with pristine waters, perhaps a fruity beverage in-hand? How about sight-seeing historical landmarks of magnificent far-off lands? Or is it feeling fatigued from lack of quality sleep, feeling overstimulated from the plane ride and new environment, and frustration about forgetting to pack important items (despite reviewing your check-list twice)? 

Despite their numerous benefits, vacations can often leave us feeling more frazzled than before we left. This is especially true for highly sensitive people (HSPs), given our sensory processing sensitivity. It is for this reason that when we are in desperate need of recharging our batteries, staycations are an ideal choice for HSPs. This way, we can still take time off work and other demands while remaining in the comfort of our own home (or at a nearby Airbnb).

Don’t get me wrong: I love to travel and recognize a myriad of benefits when it comes to vacations — experiencing beautiful places and the richness of other cultures can be magical. And as an HSP, I also recognize that there are many aspects of vacationing that can be draining on my sensitive nervous system. So when my intuition informs me that it is time for a reset, I opt for a staycation instead in order to receive the following benefits.

7 Benefits of Taking a Staycation as an HSP

1. They provide much-needed alone time. 

Due to our sensory processing sensitivity, it is vital for HSPs to have adequate alone time, both in quantity and in quality. This helps us to destimulate and recharge, as even extroverted HSPs require more alone time than their non-HSP extroverted counterparts. 

Unfortunately, it is difficult to achieve this when vacationing, since from the process of arriving (whether by plane or by car) to sharing a hotel room with others to getting out and actually doing those vacation activities, sometimes there is no escaping from the people we’re with. 

Similarly, there are many common instances in our everyday lives that make it nearly impossible to be alone, such as going to work, running errands, and attending to our social lives. Thankfully, staycations can be a great way to ensure we get alone time, as we can take off work, decline running errands or checking emails and texts during that time, and schedule in solo, nourishing activities.

2. They are less stimulating than vacations.

Vacations are often viewed as a break from our everyday lives, yet there are a number of aspects that make them overstimulating for us sensitive ones

First, when traveling, there is typically a considerable amount of time spent flying or driving to the destination. Being cooped up, especially if there are a lot of people around, makes it difficult to feel at ease. Second, many vacation destinations will be crowded. Since HSPs absorb the energy of others, it can be nearly impossible to relax when we’re surrounded by people. Third, traveling involves the dreaded process of packing (and unpacking), coupled with the fear of forgetting something. Fourth, if traveling a significant distance, jetlag will negatively impact our highly sensitive nervous system, resulting in fatigue, moodiness, and feeling “off.” Finally, even when we go to places that are beautiful, being in an unfamiliar locale can contribute to feeling overstimulated. 

With a staycation, most (if not all) of these elements of overstimulation can be avoided, since staycations do not require time spent flying or driving, being in crowds, packing and unpacking, changing time zones or jet lag, or trying to acclimate to unfamiliar locations. Conversely, staycations can be tailored to fit your HSP ideal when it comes to levels of stimulation.  

3. They allow you to focus on yourself.

In order to feel truly rested and restored, HSPs need to be able to focus on ourselves and our needs. However, that can prove difficult when vacationing, as this often involves coordinating with others. For example, you will likely need to negotiate which time to wake up and get going, plan which activities you will (and won’t) do, where to eat, etc. Although it is perfectly acceptable to go off and do your own thing, that can be tricky to implement, depending on the circumstances. Plus, since many HSPs struggle with people-pleasing, there may be some guilt as a by-product. 

Staycations, on the other hand, give us permission to attend to our wants and needs, focusing on the actions that will result in us feeling joyful, at peace, and nourished. This is a perfect remedy for the stresses we experience with work and other demands.

4. They require minimal planning.

Planning can be stressful, and vacations typically require a great deal of planning, from the flight to the transportation around the destination and the hotels, food, and activities. That’s a lot! And while there can be an excitement associated with planning, it can also quickly become overwhelming, taking away from enjoying the actual experience. Plus, given the planning associated with our professional and personal lives, it can be beneficial to not have to worry about planning for a while.

Staycations typically require minimal planning since our environment remains the same — we don’t have to worry about having a busy schedule and rushing around. This results in less stress and more opportunities to give our mind a break and simply relax, which is integral for our highly sensitive souls.

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5. They allow for a more controlled, HSP-friendly environment.

It is no secret that HSPs are deeply impacted by their environment. Unfortunately, it is not unusual for our vacation environment to negatively impact our nervous system, especially since we have less control. For instance, the lighting, room temperature, noise level, and coziness might not align with your HSP nature. Additionally, being in an unfamiliar room can make falling and staying asleep more difficult, which is the last thing HSPs need when attempting to refill our emotional cups. When we are longing to take a break from the chaotic, out-of-control aspects of our lives, this can add fuel to the fire and result in overwhelm. 

With staycations, however, we are able to control our environment to make it HSP-friendly, and thus restorative in nature. We can be in the comfort of our HSP sanctuary — the relaxing area of our home we retreat to — to allow for greater relaxation. Plus, we have the relief of familiarity, knowing where everything is for when we need it.

6. They offer a slower change of pace.

One of the best ways to feel more rested is to slow down our pace, especially in comparison to the often fraught and hectic pace of professional and personal demands. Although some aspects of vacationing are great for this — like relaxing on the beach with a good book — as discussed previously, other aspects lend to the opposite effect. 

This makes staycations favorable — they are akin to pressing the “pause button” on our lives, shifting our focus from work (and other stressors) to cultivating peace and comfort instead. Staycations do this by allowing us to fill our schedules with nourishing activities, such as sleeping in, napping, meditating, reading, watching Netflix, you name it. This helps us to destimulate, which is especially vital for HSPs since we are so prone to overwhelm.

7. They help prevent burnout. 

One of the best ways to prevent burnout is to engage in self-care. Staycations are the perfect opportunity to fill our day solely with self-care activities to reap the benefits above and beyond what we would typically do in a typical week. 

Additionally, staycations can alleviate feelings of burnout by giving us a break from demands and stressors that typically fill our lives, such as work, not getting enough sleep, an overflowing social calendar, running errands, and so on. Since HSPs are more susceptible to burnout, it is important that we check in with our internal battery and prioritize staycations when necessary. 

How to Create an Ideal HSP Staycation 

In order to fully reap all the potential benefits a staycation can offer, you first need to create a staycation that is ideal for you. Here are some tips I recommend.

  • Do your chores and errands beforehand. One of the most annoying scenarios is when the time-off we so looked forward to becomes filled with chores and errands instead of relaxing. In order to make the most of your staycation, do any household chores and outside errands before you embark on your staycation.
  • Plan out your meals. Knowing what you want to do for your meals is another important factor to consider. For some people (myself included), we love cooking and baking, as it helps unleash our creativity, allows us to experience a “flow state,” and is generally fun and relaxing. 
  • Select your favorite self-care activities. What are the activities that bring you joy? What helps you to feel at peace? Identify what these self-care activities are and fill your staycation with them by creating a mental HSP sanctuary. For instance, perhaps you’ve been meaning to have an at-home spa day, complete with bubble baths, face masks, and aromatherapy. Make sure to incorporate such activities throughout your staycation.
  • Sleep in. Sleep is the ultimate reset button. This is especially true for HSPs, as we actually need more sleep than our non-HSP counterparts, given our nervous systems are more easily overwhelmed. So to help make your staycation as restorative as possible, make sure to take advantage of not needing an alarm to wake up and enjoy as much sleep as you’d like.
  • Remove any potential stressors. One of the primary purposes of a staycation is to reduce the amount of stress in your life. You may want to delete news apps from your phone and/or leave it on “do not disturb” mode. Try to formulate boundaries with others, too, to ensure you have the least stressful staycation as possible.
  • “Treat Yo Self.” For those of you who have seen the show Parks and Recreation, you’ll likely be familiar with “Treat Yo Self,” which is “the best day of the year.” It is celebrated by characters Donna and Tom by pampering themselves and gifting themselves without guilt or shame. This idea is perfect to integrate into your staycation, whether you splurge on a fancy dinner or massage. 
  • Reflect and check in. At the end of your staycation, this is a good time to check in with yourself. Reflect on how the self-care you’ve engaged in during your staycation has helped restore you. How are you feeling now? What self-care actions can you take with you into your everyday life? Although staycations last for a limited amount of time, we can increase our sense of well-being and decrease our likelihood of burnout if we can incorporate some of those same practices into our day-to-day lives.

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