The holidays are just what the doctor ordered
Everyone loves to take a vacation and explore new places, but you may have even more reasons to take time off. Vacations are the best way to reduce stress because they take you away from the demands of everyday life and the things that make you anxious. Dr. Tom Potisk says, “I advocate frequent vacations as a vital component of wellness.” As the author of Whole Health Healing: the Budget-Friendly Natural Wellness Bible for All Ages and generally known as the “down-to-earth” doctor, he says vacations can provide the two things people need to thrive. People need to give their mind and body time to rest, and they also need to get out and experience new things. After a vacation, people return feeling more energized, their immune systems have been strengthened, and they are even more creative in some ways. Dr. Potisk says that we all need vacations and even teaches doctors across the country about the importance of vacations and emphasizes that they should take them too.
There’s even scientific data to back up your belief that vacations can help you better manage your stress. In an article published on September 17, 2008 in The Journal of the American Medical Association there is evidence to support his claim. There was one study done in which the subjects were men between the ages of 35 and 57. At the start, none of the men had signs of heart disease. The study lasted nine years, and by the end, men in the group who took the most vacations were 29 percent less likely to be diagnosed with heart disease and 17 percent less likely to die than those who did not take regular vacation. (The beneficial health effect of vacations remained valid after accounting for socioeconomic considerations and cardiovascular risk factors.) There is also countless other research pointing to the fact that our health deteriorates if we don’t take the time to take a break.
Dr. Lyengar of the Bradenton Cardiology Center in Florida discusses the science behind stress so we can better understand the effects it has on our bodies. He says that stress usually occurs in an acute phase, which means that it happens for a short time. As the doctor explains, “you are about to avoid a traffic accident, for example. The stress response is the body’s way of telling a person to do something drastic at that moment. Your body releases hormones, adrenaline and cortisol, which help in the acute phase. The ‘fight or flight response’ is the body’s response to some kind of stimulus: it goes into anxious or hyper-reactive mode to survive.”
Since it usually occurs in short doses, the body is not designed to handle chronic stress. When you are constantly anxious about your job or your boss, your fight or flight hormones are exposed to your body more than they should be. The inflamed release of hormones causes long-term damage to the blood vessels. This is evidence that stress is linked to heart disease and that if you are genetically prone to heart disease it will only make things worse.
Women are especially in need of vacations as they constantly handle multiple responsibilities. Heart disease is known as the “silent killer” in women, which is why they need a break just as much as men. Dr. Lyengar says that managing stress can be a justifiable reason to take a vacation. Especially if you have pre-existing medical conditions such as diabetes, obesity, or high blood pressure, stress will only make them worse, so these people need to be even more careful when taking a vacation.
Certain personalities also need more vacations than others because they are more at risk of stress-related health problems. “Type A personalities” are people who are always working and are very intractable at what they do. These people find it difficult to go on vacation and stay away as they are always trying to find some kind of job during their vacation. Working during the holidays does not allow you to reap all the benefits of free time. To relieve your stress on a vacation, you need to completely separate yourself from work or any other daily pressures you encounter. The holidays are time for you to try something totally new, so take advantage of it.
A change of scenery is imperative for the benefits of the vacation to take full effect. If you stay in the same area where you’re constantly exposed to the stresses of everyday life, you’re not really taking a break. Also, you should not go from one demanding situation to another on vacation. Do whatever is effective in managing stress for you, a vacation shouldn’t make you even more tense, if that’s the case then you should find a different destination.
The book “Stressed? Anxiety? Your cure is in the mirror” by Dr. Murray Grossan sheds light on the subject of stress and how people have historically coped with it. Every culture during every time period has had a so called “vacation spot” according to this book. Whether that means going out somewhere for some fresh, clean air, enjoying a hot spring, or traveling to a new place to see the sights, there was a place for people to go to take a break. Just 100 years ago, people weren’t told to take a pill for whatever illness they had, they went to a “spa” on vacation.
Dr. Grossan says that a vacation can leave you coming back with an “I can do it” attitude. Rest and relaxation frees you from negative thoughts and that “I can’t” feeling. Feeling constant stress drains good body chemistry, but time off can allow this system to recuperate. He says that a vacation can heal you and clear your head so you can make better decisions. Some people think that a beach vacation is the perfect dream vacation, and others have a different idea of the best vacation. There really isn’t one that is better than the other as long as you get away from your daily situations.
To provide the best stress relief before your vacation, be sure to tell people that you won’t be available while you’re on vacation unless it’s an emergency. Also, be sure to leave your computer behind and distance yourself from using your phone. It is best to pack as light as possible and allow a day to adjust when you get home before heading back to work. Also if you can try not to wear watches and just follow the natural rhythm of your body. Another important thing to consider is staying within the budget you set for your vacation so you don’t feel even more stressed about finances when you get home.
Nutritionist and registered dietitian Elaine Hastings offers some tips on what to eat while on vacation. You should try to avoid drinking a lot of alcohol or eating too much unhealthy food, as this will make you feel sluggish and unhappy when you get home. You don’t want to feel bad about gaining weight, so stick with healthy food options. She says to “try to balance your rest with some physical activity and eat fruits, vegetables, and lean protein.” By following these tips, you’ll come home feeling rested, refreshed, and revitalized. So pick one of your favorite vacation spots and head there to kick back and relax.