Life, as Ferris Bueller famously pointed out, moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you really could miss it.
But anyone who’s ever taken a yoga class or sat down to meditate knows that it isn’t always easy to live in the moment. With our busy lives, careers, families, and all the other concerns that go along with being human, it can be hard to get our brains to just shut up for a second.
Just like Ferris says, the only way to really enjoy any individual moment of our lives is to slow down enough to be present for it. When we’re constantly distracted by future worries and past memories, we miss the experience presenting itself to us right now. We miss our very lives, even as they’re passing by!
Furthermore, finding ways to wind down and enjoy rest and relaxation are super important for our overall health. Stress may seem like a purely mental issue — which is bad enough — but it also actually has a host of negative effects on the body. According to WebMD, stress can lead to upset stomach, tense muscles, chest pain and rapid heartbeat, insomnia, and even increase your chances of viral infections. Not to mention, of course, that stress itself feels just plain awful.
If you’re an RV camper, it’s especially important that you find ways to disconnect from the racing reality of day-to-day life and find ways to actually enjoy your trips. After all, you work really hard and put a lot of time and money into your vacations. If they’re not actually vacations, what’s the point?
Similarly, if you’re living that #RVlife full time, you’ll want to find ways to find a balance between normal, daily living and those sublime moments that make full-time travel worthwhile — the ones that probably caused you to seek out that lifestyle in the first place.
So in this post, we’re going to talk about how to manage stress, laying out some basic mindfulness tips and stress-relieving ideas to try next time life seems like it’s spiraling out of your control. In fact, if you really want to up your mindfulness game, you could even try implementing them before it gets to that point in the first place.
Ways to Relax
Let’s jump right in with some surefire ways to wind down when life is feeling overwhelming.
Put down your cell phone.
According to a 2017 study, the average American checks their phone every 12 minutes — which adds up to 80 times a day.
That number, my friends, is absolutely bonkers.
Cellular technology is an amazing and useful tool for keeping us connected no matter where in the world we find ourselves physically… at least in theory. But once smartphones ushered in the age of having constant access to social media, things became a little bit more dicey.
Although social networks are ostensibly digital ways to bring us together, a huge number of psychological studies have correlated heavy social media use with loneliness, isolation, and anxiety. Our addiction to our phones is even cutting into our basic needs, keeping us from being able to sleep through the night without checking for notifications.
And although we’re all guilty of it to some degree, we also know: there’s nothing worse than trying to have a face-to-face social interaction… only to notice the other person glancing distractedly into that glowing blue rectangle in his palm.
Don’t get us wrong; we’re a digital company. Our whole business is based online, and we definitely appreciate all the useful applications of an internet connection. But when it comes to mental health, it is absolutely imperative that you let yourself unplug every once in a while.
This problem is especially important for travelers, who can miss out on once-in-a-lifetime experiences because they’re too busy texting someone halfway across the world — or worse, blindly scrolling through Instagram. (Or even worse — drafting your OWN social media posts, focusing on how to get the best photo angle rather than how to best actually experience that incredible landmark you traveled so far for.)
So when you’re out and about, be sure to leave your cell phone firmly in your pocket — or, if you don’t trust your self discipline, back in the car. Trust us, if it’s a famous tourist landmark, someone else has already taken a better photo of it.
And even when you’re just hanging out at home, you might consider scheduling specific times to check your cell phone… or, perhaps more to the point, specific times when you’re not. For example, some people set a hard rule about screens after 8 p.m. (or a couple of hours before whatever time is your own bedtime). Getting away from that otherworldly glow will help you fall asleep more easily and stay asleep longer… and put time back into your day for non-scrolling forms of quiet recreation.
Which leads us to our next suggestion!
Read a book.
Yes, a real one. The kind with pages.
Ebooks are great for their portability and storage capacity, don’t get us wrong. But chances are you already spend a huge amount of time each day staring at a digital page. Plus, studies have shown that when you read a physical book, you’re more able to retain the information you glean from your reading. Your brain adds a spatial component based on where, physically, in the heft of the book you read it. Neat, huh? (Plus, when we read on a digital platform, it’s just too easy to fall into the same problem you likely experience with your cell phone: constant distraction by all the other apps and programs your ereader comes stocked with.)
Whether you dive into a fantasy world for some escapism or use your reading to learn something new or brush up on practical skills, reading a book is a great way to force yourself to sit down, relax, and really focus on just one thing for a while. Plus, let’s face it — every home, including your motorhome, looks cozier with a few well-thumbed volumes lying around.
Take up a hobby.
Have you always dreamed of learning to make candles? Or wanted to audition at your local community theater?
While it may seem like adding another to-do to an already-packed list is a counterintuitive way to slow down, blocking out some time to follow your dreams can make you feel more centered and happier — and more able to deal with the stress of your other commitments, overall.
Besides: what’s the point of all that hard work if you don’t take some time in your life to enjoy it and do what brings you joy?
Take a relaxing bath or shower.
Here’s one way to relax that doesn’t require any major time commitment or monetary investment: just take a long, luxurious soak or shower. Throw on some smooth tunes, grab a bath bomb, and let yourself tune out for thirty minutes of warm, delicious bliss.
Hey, it’s got one thing going for it: You definitely can’t bring your anxiety-inducing cell phone in there with you!
Take a closer look.
At what, you might ask?
Everything. Even normal stuff: the fruit lining the carts at the grocery store; the trees you pass on your way to work. This world we live in is so shockingly beautiful… but most of us are in way too much of a hurry to really enjoy it on a daily basis.
So give yourself permission to slow down and really look at things closely. You might be surprised how many amazing details you’ve been missing, even in things you “see” every single day.
Spend quality time with loved ones.
You’re probably around your family every single day. But when’s the last time you really sat down and talked with them — about stuff that mattered? When’s the last time you looked your partner in the eyes and told them how you feel?
We’re on this planet for such a short stretch of time, and our relationships to others are the most important and fulfilling part of the human experience. Don’t miss out on intimacy just because you were “too busy” — because whatever you’re “too busy” with doesn’t matter nearly as much as the people you love. Guaranteed.
So next time you feel like you’re too busy to stop and really ask how your loved ones are doing, that’s exactly the time you should stop everything and do just that — and let yourself have an authentic, honest connection and conversation, even if it takes an hour.
(And again, this goes without saying: no cell phones should be involved, unless you’re actually calling that person!)
Here’s Why “Go Outdoors” Is the Best Advice Ever
Want to know a simple way to vastly improve any relaxation technique, including all the ones listed above?
Do it outdoors. (Yes, even in the case of the bath — that’s what hot springs are for!)
Since you’re reading a camping blog, we’re going to assume you’re at least a little outdoorsy. And that’s a good thing, too. Science has shown that the simple act of just being outside makes us happier — and kinder and more creative, to boot.
And that’s just when you go outside. We haven’t even touched on all the amazing things you can do once you’re out there!
Here’s why you should double down on your commitment to leaving the four walls of home behind on a regular basis.
It’s a fun way to get physical exercise.
Whether you’re a gym rat or a couch potato, chances are you’ve already heard about exactly how important exercise is for our physical health. (And as it turns out, it’s key to our mental health, too!)
But even with the best intentions, not everyone can bring themselves to set aside an hour every day to slog through some miles on the treadmill or count reps while they pump iron.
Fortunately, you’ve got a free membership to the very best gym in the world: the great outdoors. Not only is it way prettier than even the fanciest fitness facility, but it offers an endless roster of activities, so you’ll never have to worry about getting bored with your workout — a workout that won’t feel like a chore in the first place.
There are so many ways to move your body while you’re outside that feel like anything but intentional exercise. Here are just a few examples.
- Taking a leisurely nature walk along a flat, paved path
- Tackling more challenging hiking trails, whose steep climbs reward you with once-in-a-lifetime views
- Trying a different kind of outdoor adventure sport, like rock climbing, mountain biking, or SCUBA diving
- Playing with your kids, whether by playing a quick summer game of hide and seek, jumping in piles of fresh-raked fall leaves, or building a snowman in winter
And that’s really just the tip of the iceberg. You can find so many ways to enjoy nature and get in some extra steps at the same time — the sky is, literally, the limit!
Just being outside improves our mental health.
As we mentioned above, most of our science points to a fact that should seem pretty obvious anyway: we evolved to be outside, and so we’re at our best when we’re out there.
And if you’re looking for a quick and easy way to hit the reset button, that’s great news. Because no matter where you live, you can always take a ten minute break to open your front door and take a quick stroll to get some fresh air and at least see some plant life, even if it’s only the well-manicured kind in front of peoples’ houses. But this insight also brings us a lot of clarity when we’re looking for longer-lasting relaxation opportunities.
Here’s an obvious for-instance: the next time you plan a camping trip, choose a destination based on outdoor activities, whether that means lounging on a beach or trekking up a tough alpine trail. As an RV traveler, you’re on the front lines of nature-focused travel opportunities… so don’t be afraid to take advantage of them!
You could even look into a nature-focused retreat, like these outdoor yoga programs in the heart of Montana’s Big Sky country. Adding the refocusing power of meditative movement with the natural serenity of the landscape makes for a double-duty dose of rejuvenation!
Outdoor activities keep you away from those ubiquitous screens — at least for a while.
Yes, we know we keep harping on this point… but there really is no substitute for screen-free time when it comes to finding your center. Trade swiping for swapping stories around the campfire, and you’ll see!
How to Meditate, Even for Total Beginners
If you want to get serious about mindfulness training and find ways to recenter yourself no matter where you are or what you’re doing, meditation is one of the very best steps you can take. In fact, neurological experts have shown that meditation can have real, physical, positive effects on your brain health.
But for those of us who grew up in the rush-rush-rush mentality of western culture, it’s not as easy as grabbing a meditation pillow, sitting cross-legged, and closing our eyes. (I mean, physically it is… but once you get there, chances are you’re going to have some trouble getting your brain to cooperate.)
If you’ve never done it before, you might not even know exactly what meditation means. Are you supposed to think about nothing? Focus on a single image or repeat one mantra? How do you know when you’re actually doing it?
There are actually lots of different ways to meditate. And the good news is, it’s difficult — at first — for pretty much everybody. Our brains are adapted to constantly think and worry and create in order to keep us alive, which means it can be hard to quiet them… even for their own benefit.
But thankfully, a renewed interest in meditation has led to many organizations creating accessible ways for the average person to learn this important practice.
For example, if you’re brand new to meditation, you might try some of the free, guided sessions on the Headspace app. They make it simple to slow down and get focused, even if you’re a brand-new meditator with high-gear anxiety. (Yes, you can break our cell phone rule for this one!)
The New York Times has also put out a helpful guide to help you get started on your meditation practice, including lots of science-based evidence showing exactly how great it is for our overall health. If sitting still is difficult for you, yoga is a great way to practice moving meditation; you can start with one of our favorite YouTube channels, Yoga with Adriene, if you don’t feel ready to venture out to an in-person class quite yet.
In the end, meditation is just about finding the right tactics for you when you need to refocus, recharge, and recover. Whether that means sitting for half an hour in lotus or taking a cell-phone-free walk through the forest, you can have fun experimenting until you find your own personal happy place.
RV Travel: Your Ticket to Outdoor Bliss
Given the fact that getting outside and finding ways to incorporate more physical motion into our life are both important stress relievers, RVing should really be considered a one-way ticket to total in-the-moment bliss. Most campgrounds are located in beautiful, natural locations chock full of outdoor activity opportunities, after all.
Of course, when you’re deep in the throes of logistics and planning, your RV trip can feel like anything but a vacation. Ditto if something happens and you find yourself with a mechanical problem or unexpected (i.e., forced) change of itinerary.
But even when you’re poring over your road atlas and charting out to-dos, and even if you find yourself on the side of the road waiting for assistance, you can implement the steps we’ve outlined above — or at the very least, you can take a deep breath and gather some perspective. When it comes to RV trips, there’s one golden rule: it’s all an adventure.
That doesn’t mean you can’t take certain steps to ensure your trip goes as smoothly as possible, however. Keep reading to learn our best tips for taking an amazing, genuinely relaxing road trip — even with a big family in tow.
Taking a Stress-Free Family Road Trip
As much as we love our families, being around them in a small space can make us a little bit crazy — and even the largest RVs on the market aren’t exactly swimming in living space.
But making a few simple preparations can turn your RV adventure from a claustrophobic tin-can experience to one that literally broadens your horizons.
Bring along the comforts of home.
When you’re cooped up in a small space, simple things, like your favorite coffee mug or blanket, can make a huge difference as far as your mental health is concerned. Part of the appeal of RVing is that you don’t have to be a super-light packer, so take advantage of that by bringing along your favorite comfort object!
Let everyone have at least a little bit of personal space.
It might sound impossible, especially if you’re not traveling in a Class A diesel pusher. But even if there’s not enough room for everyone to have their own bed, there are ways to ensure each member of your camping party has at least a little bit of personal space to claim as their own. Check out this RVshare blog post to learn more.
Renting? Save cash — and brain space — with the peer-to-peer market.
If you don’t own a motorhome or travel trailer of your own, the RV rental process can honestly become a huge source of stress. Between dealing with a big, faceless corporate rental agency, navigating the fine print, and stomaching astronomical prices, you might find yourself worn out before your vacation has even begun.
Now, obviously, we’re a little biased. This is the RVshare blog after all.
But renting on the peer-to-peer market can totally change the RV rental experience for the better — in ways that save you money, yes, but more importantly make your vacation less stressful and more enjoyable. (After all, that’s the whole point!)
First of all, the peer-to-peer market saves you money. When you’re renting from individual RV owners who don’t have to foot the bill for expensive overhead business costs, like keeping the lights on at a dealership floor, you get the benefits of those savings passed on to you. That’s why many of the rigs on RVshare are listed at a fraction of the price you’ll find at the big nationwide rental franchises. Budget is a huge concern — and source of stress — for most of us, especially when we’re taking on an expensive vacation. So saving big bucks right off the bat does a lot for allowing you to relax and actually enjoy your journey.
Secondly, when you rent from RVshare, all the logistics are taken care of — you’ve got nothing to worry about but getting in the rig and driving away. Our rating system makes it easy to understand exactly what to expect from each vehicle and renter, and all financial and communicative transactions take place through our secure platform, so you know your sensitive information stays safe. And while we want your trip to go off without a hitch, we know that life does happen — so each rental is covered by comprehensive insurance policies backed by A-rated insurers. You’ll also have access to 24/7 roadside assistance — just in case.
Finally, renting through RVshare allows you to participate in the friendly and supportive camping community. You’ll meet travel-hungry adventurers just like you and get the chance to experience the RV life in a real, actually-loved-and-lived-in vehicle, as opposed to an empty, vanilla floor model from a big dealership. It’s a great way to learn more about exactly what kind of camping suits you and your family best… you know, just in case you fall totally in love with the lifestyle and find yourself on the market.
Enjoy the Moment, Because It’s the Only Thing We Have
Even with all these tips, tricks, and techniques in our arsenal, it’s not always easy to live in the present. The pulls and pressures of our daily lives and responsibilities can make it difficult for us to slow down and pay attention to the things that matter most.
But finding ways to live in the now is the most important step you can take towards safeguarding your mental health… and actually enjoying that life you’re hurrying through.
RV camping can be a life-changing way to get focused on getting focused; the flexibility to travel to amazing new places with the people we love best can jolt us back into remembering why we’re alive.
So what are you waiting for? The world in all its splendor is out there calling out for you — and you’ve only got a certain amount of time to see it.
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