by Michelle Sutton-Kerchner
Debating that vacation day or getaway week? You can’t afford to skip it …
Although often considered a luxury, vacation time is important for overall health and well-being. Research shows long-term benefits of a vacation. Time off can help ease physical complaints, improve sleep quality, and enhance mood compared to a pre-vacation state. These perks can still be in effect up to five weeks later.
Statistics indicate the majority take less than one vacation every two years, or not at all. Income, demanding jobs, and overloaded schedules are top reasons for avoiding designated downtime. We live in a society that somewhat admires the overworked, and is awed by the overextended. Affirming your degree of stress is akin to children bragging about whom has a later bedtime. I’m stressed! I’m tired! I’m busy! In other words: I’m not lazy. I’m important.
Be important. Be busy. But be healthy.
Take a vacation, even a mere weekend without work. Then, watch that exterior melt away to reveal who you are when you aren’t wearing a tie, juggling car/office/house keys, and trying to keep pace in life’s marathon. When the mind is at rest, one is free to reflect, contemplate, and refresh. The world’s wonders, and the wonder that is you, is suddenly apparent. It’s there all along, but you are too busy to glimpse it. These reflections are a comforting source in months to come. They can counteract stress with a quick flashback to a simpler time.
Direct-to-Body Benefits of Vacations
- Lessen the risks of dying from coronary heart disease. More than 12,000 men at risk for heart disease, ages 35 to 57 years, were monitored by researchers in a heart disease prevention trial. The results suggested men who take annual vacations reduce their overall risk of death by about 20 percent. The risk of death from heart disease dropped by as much as 30 percent. The frequency of vacations directly correlated to longevity.
- Reduce stress and its undesirable physical effects. Vacations provide a break from everyday worries, chores, and responsibilities. You can almost feel the stress hormones packing their own bags and moving on to feast elsewhere as your time off continues.
- Improve weight loss efforts. A lifestyle fueled by a constant state of stress can sabotage efforts to reach/maintain a healthy weight. Healthy food choices may be replaced by quick, convenient options that are processed or purchased from a drive-thru. The increased production of cortisol (stress hormone) also triggers a false sense of hunger. Comfort food, known to be highly caloric by nature, is a top choice. Television is easy entertainment when exhausted. These common factors of a hectic lifestyle, with no break in sight, contribute to your waistline.
Therapeutic Effects on Marriage
Enhance your marriage. Researchers compared psychological stress, and the quality of marital and home life, of 1,500 women who took vacations to those who did not. The odds of tension and depression increased as the frequency of vacation decreased. Improved quality-of-life from regular vacationing can be assumed to carry over and benefit the marriage and family as a whole.
Families who enjoy downtime together, preferably at a variety of locations (either far-flung or through local daytrips) have enhanced memories that include fun, laughter, and associated private jokes. Siblings argue by nature, but seeing them in “laidback buddy mode” assures parents of their fundamental bond. Happy campers, all around.
Ease Tensions in Seriously Ill
Enjoy a better mental outlook. Participants involved in studies on cardiovascular disease, breast cancer, and other conditions had a higher level of positive emotions and lower level of depression as a result of leisure activities, including vacation. Although you cannot take a vacation from chronic illness, perhaps you can steal a respite from its mental effects.
Vacations produce employees with improved mental and physical health. The Vacation Deprivation Study found when employees take time off , businesses and the economy benefit. The simple fact that the Vacation Deprivation Study exists is noteworthy.
Many report a more positive outlook on the job with increased productivity after taking time away. Experts believe those who sacrifice their allotted vacation time are doing a disservice to their employer as well as themselves and their families. Creativity and innovation are stalled by a mind dulled from the day-to-day. Take a vacation and contribute to the greater good. (Yes, we insist.)
Define the Break
The break should, indeed, be a break. Refresh brain cells– not Web pages, social networking posts, and agendas. It is easy to use out-of-office time as a chance to catch up on a backlog of e-mails, correspondence, and reports. Make a commitment to yourself to truly “get away.” You’ll return to work refreshed and ready to tackle the piles accumulated during your absence. They’ll be there, regardless. Acknowledge it is almost impractical to get “caught up” in the modern world of electronic work. Spam alone never vacations from being cranked out, despite best efforts to filter it. Let it be, for now.
The need for a break isn’t all about work anymore. Our gadgets allow constant communication with our home base from anywhere. Corresponding via cell phone, e-mail, and texts aren’t just for the entrepreneur. The esteemed smart phone and all its apps keep us involved with the everyday, stimulating the very stream of consciousness from which we need to escape.
Don’t cheat yourself of a quiet moment or the ocean’s roar with pings, rings, and alarms generated from your electronic life. If your Facebook friends lose interest because you failed to share the latest picture of yourself sunning in the sand (with sun block, of course), then this may be a good time to evaluate who is real in your life. Challenge yourself to avoid obsessive texting and posting during vacation. Of course, if you just tackled a monster ride and captured a photo of you dangling from a 100-foot drop, post away. It might be your only credibility.
If you must check in, set aside a specific time of day for it so it’s not integrated into your downtime. Keep in mind though, a quick check-in can trigger an avalanche of repercussions.
Don’t Forget to Exercise
Plan ahead if you won’t be available for your regular workouts at the Center. Don’t let a week of dining out and reclining in a lounge chair sabotage your fitness efforts. Include exercise in your daily routine. Use this time to vary your workout. Pack mini weights or exercise bands. Just be sure you know how to properly use them before you’re away from the Center’s guidance. Learn take-away techniques from a Group Fitness instructor or trainer. Maintain momentum during your absence.
Feel and look your best by incorporating healthy habits during vacation. Eat well and exercise to tackle days with the energy they deserve. Make exercise part of your enjoyment by capitalizing on the change of scenery. Walk the beach, hike the mountains, or swim in designated waters. Tour on foot rather than via trolley or taxi. Rent bikes.
Remember to be cautious with new fitness endeavors. Remain at your current skill level, or risk injury. Vacation is not the time to become a workout warrior. Challenge yourself to the next level in the presence of the Center’s fitness professionals and nurses.
Sometimes, we truly cannot break away for a week or even a day. It could be a career crunch period, ongoing commitments to community events, or the kids’ never-ending sports camps. The time away would not justify the effort required for it.
Be sure to build mini vacations into your days. Although there isn’t a scenic refrigerator magnet that announces, “I spent an extra hour in bed today!” or “I did some therapeutic gardening!” it still replenishes your body and spirit. And, you didn’t have to visit an overstocked souvenir shop!
Take a virtual vacation through a friend. Share his/her experiences and use them to make goals of your own. Learn about new destinations and hobbies usually saved for getaways. (Croquet, anyone?) Subscribe to a travel magazine. This may sound frustrating to one who is firmly planted in New Jersey for the foreseeable future. However, it can be a source of daydreaming and aspirations where the sky is the limit. They don’t make screensavers of beautiful locales without reason. Guided imagery provides relaxation without leaving sand in your shoes.
Whatever form it takes, vacations deliver a health boost. No one regrets taking a vacation, even if it isn’t picture perfect — and sometimes because it isn’t picture perfect. You don’t need a Vacation Deprivation Study to tell you that. Cherish the memories and breathe in the benefits.
“Health Benefits of Taking a Vacation,” by Debbie N. Turner at www.ezinearticles.com.
“Vacations Provide Mental Health Benefits for Women,” by Chris Schellpfeffer at www.medicalnewstoday.com.
“What Are the Benefits of Taking a Vacation?” by Chris Blank at www.usatoday.com.
Vacation needed: http://www.flickr.com/photos/albadawn/7257749428/
Beach contemplation: http://www.flickr.com/photos/waves/3449120918/
Tape measure with sweets: © Sherrie Smith at www.dreamstime.com
Silly vacationers: http://www.flickr.com/photos/leighhouse/5606288466/
Beach texters: http://www.flickr.com/photos/comedynose/4739614082/
Woman with visor on beach (teaser photo): http://www.flickr.com/photos/cogdog/6324096723/