The word essential has certainly taken on a new and glorified meaning over the past 18 months, hasn't it? I think we have all learned the value of essential employees during the recent pandemic. Even though, I still have zero use for essential oils. But for the sake of this article let's assume that essential still means "absolutely necessary, extremely important".

You're probably wondering how in the heck the word "essential" can be applied to vacations when defined as we've done above? Well, the definition is coming from mental health professionals. Many of them, mental health professionals, ascribe to the notion that we as human animals need a break from our constant day-to-day efforts in order to maintain some sort of mental stability.

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What Exactly is a Vacation?

Now for most people when they hear the word vacation they think of travel to and from some exotic locale. According to mental health professionals, it's actually not the destination that yields the benefits, it's the actually disconnecting from the job that brings about the benefits we need for a good balanced mental profile.

In fact, many people that plan big getaways actually come back from their trip feeling more stressed and more anxious. For many of those people, it's the financial burden of taking a vacation that adds to their anxiety.

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So, What Can You Do When Money is Tight?

First, you need to realize that the simple act of taking a break is all that's necessary to gain the mental health benefits of taking time away. That means that your staycation in the backyard or even an afternoon picnic in a local park is all you'll need to find yourself refreshed and rejuvenated.

These kinds of "vacations" interrupt the cycle of stress that comes with your day-to-day schedule. The simple act of removing that chronic stress from your psyche, even if it's for just a few hours, will help give your mind the break it needs to refocus not only on work issues but other issues that are happening in your life as well.

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Exercise Can be Considered a Daily Vacation

If you started thinking of your evening walk or workout session as a "vacation" you'd probably be more inclined to not miss it. The fact is exercise helps deliver many of the same benefits you'll receive during a long vacation. The act of doing something "just for you" help reset your mind. Exercising is also a great way to work off work-related stress so that when you do go back on the job, even if it's the next day, your mind is more relaxed and open to focusing and finishing the tasks at hand.

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What Are Some Great Low-Cost Vacation Ideas?

Well, a walk around your neighborhood isn't postcard-worthy but to your brain and body, you'll get many of the same benefits of a day at the beach. A picnic in the park is a great idea too. Window shopping in a part of town where you don't normally shop is also a great diversion that can be done free of charge.

You might also consult your community calendar for free events in your town. ArtWalk in Downtown Lafayette is a great example of a free event. There are also events like Downtown Alive! and other festival-like gatherings that don't cost any money or at least very little.

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The Bottom Line is You Really Need a Break

Some studies have shown the mere thought of planning a vacation can boost happiness or happy feelings in a person for up to two months before the break. If you're fortunate enough to plan several breaks during the year, then you could actually arrange your schedule to where you're always in an elevated mood because you always have a "vacation" to look forward to.

Now, as far as where to go, might we suggest:

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