Dr. Brian and I discussed Summer Vacations back in episode 23 of Family Anatomy. Well, it’s clearly not summer anymore, although the cold weather leads many to consider a vacation during the winter months. People are typically looking for ways to escape the cold and find a place to relax and get away from the time pressures and stresses of daily life. Research over the years indicates that taking vacations is an important part of maintaining physical and mental health. Stressful experiences release hormones like ephinephrine and cortisol into your bloodstream. Having these neurochemicals coursing through our bodies too often can lead to higher blood pressure and increased heart strain, not to mention increased levels of depression and anxiety. At the same time, survey’s indicate that a significant number of people return from vacation more tired and stressed! What can you do to increase your chances of being healthier and more relaxed upon your return? Here are some ABC’s for making your vacation what it supposed to be.
A. Time Management: Anticipate the things that need to get done before going away and make sure you provide enough time for yourself. People who are stressed going into vacations because they have waited to do things until the last minute are setting themselves up for less down time. Go into your vacation relaxed.
B. Plan but Don’t Over Plan: Having some activities planned ahead of time, activities that you know you’ll enjoy, is fine. Placing too many activities into your itinerary so that you are rushing from one thing to the next without being able to fully appreciate them, can be as stressful as deadline time at work. Leave time for reflection and relaxation.
C. Don’t Work on Vacation Time: This is a time to live as though you are retired – with the added benefit of not needing to plan the rest of your life as a retired person – which can be hard work! Don’t answer work emails or phone calls. Let go of the politics happening at work (don’t worry it will be there when you return). Try and take in the bigger picture, the pleasures that life has to offer. This should be much easier on vacation not only due to the fact you are in a new and interesting environment, but also because you can look back on your day to day life with some perspective.
Note: Posts on Family Anatomy are for information only. If you need to talk to someone about family or mental health issues, you can get a referral from your family doctor.