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How To Prepare Yourself For The Perfect, Stress-Free Vacation

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If you’ve ever found yourself wishing for another vacation before you’ve even finished unpacking your suitcase from the last one, it’s time to do something a little differently before you hit the road for this extra-long July 4th weekend.

It sounds like extra work, having to prepare for vacation. But turns out, if we don’t take a few crucial steps, we’ll end up sabotaging our free time. Matt Richtel wrote for the New York Times last year about setting out to find a way to avoid what he calls “the seven-day trap” of a week-long getaway: “three days impatient to be relaxed already, two days actually being relaxed, and then two final days of dread before going back to work.”

He didn’t mean reminding the boss you’ll be gone, leaving detailed documentation of who is covering what and emailing around your in-case-of-emergency contact information — although those are all good ideas. Richtel’s point was that a busy brain can keep you from fully relaxing, and that it’s nearly impossible to ask your mind to just cool it at the drop of a hat. In that spirit, here are some de-stressing steps to take to help you shift seamlessly from work mode to vacation mode — and back again.

1. Don’t stress about leaving things the way you’d like to come back to them.

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Maybe you’ve heard that a de-cluttered desk is a decluttered mind, or are in a constant battle to empty your email inbox. “Many of us stress about doing extra work before leaving in hopes of cutting down on the amount you have when you come back,” says psychologist J. Kip Matthews, vice president of Athens, Georgia-based AK Counseling and Consulting, Inc. “But it seems like there’s always a lot of work when you get back,” no matter how you prep, he admits.

While some people might benefit from a little prep work beforehand, it won’t make re-entry easier for everyone, says Teri Bourdeau, clinical associate professor at Oklahoma State University’s Center for Health Sciences. For others, the prep only adds more stress, says Matthews. “Focus and prioritize