June 24, 2024

Alex o'Loughlin

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Vacations Are Just What the Doctor Ordered

Everyone enjoys taking a vacation and exploring new places, but you may have even more reason to take some time off. Vacations are the best way to reduce stress because they get you away from the everyday demands 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 that vacations can supply the two things that people need to thrive. People need to give their mind and body time to rest, and they also need to go out and experience new things. After a vacation people come back feeling more energized, their immune system has been boosted, and they are even more creative in some aspects. Dr. Potisk says that we all need vacations and he even teaches doctors around the country about the importance of vacations and emphasizes that they should be taking them as well.

There is even scientific data to back up his 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 back up his claim. There was a study conducted in which the subjects were men ranging in age from 35 to 57. At the beginning of it none of the men had any signs of heart disease. The study lasted for nine years and at the end of it the 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 vacations. (The beneficial health effect of vacations remained valid after socioeconomic considerations and cardiovascular risk factors were taken into account.) There is also countless other research that points to the fact that our health deteriorates if we do not take time to take a break.

Dr. Lyengar of the Bradenton Cardiology Center in Florida breaks down the science behind stress so that we may better understand the effects of it on our bodies. He says that stress usually happens in an acute phase meaning that it happens for a brief time. As the doctor explains it “you’re about to avoid a traffic accident, for example. Stress response is the body’s way of telling an individual to do something drastic at that moment. Your body releases hormones – adrenaline and cortisol – that help in the acute phase. The ‘fight or flight response’ is the body’s response to some sort of stimulus: it goes into anxious or hyper-reactive mode. “You stand your ground and ‘fight’ (in a manner of speaking), or take flight to survive.”

Since it usually happens in short doses the body is not designed to handle chronic stress. When you are constantly anxious about your job or your boss the 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 inclined to heart disease this will only make it worse.

Women are especially in need of vacations as they constantly manage multiple responsibilities. Heart disease is known as the “silent killer” in women, so they need a break just as much as men do. Dr. Lyengar says that managing your stress can be a justifiable reason to take a vacation. Especially is you have previous medical conditions such as diabetes, obesity, or high blood pressure stress will only make these worse so these people need to take even more care to take a vacation.

Certain personalities are also more in need of vacations than others because they are more at risk for stress related health problems. “Type A personalities” are people that are always working and are very intractable in what they do. These people find it hard to go on vacation and stay away as they are always trying to fit in some kind of work during their holiday. Working on vacation does not allow you to reap the full benefits of time away. In order to relieve your stress on a vacation you need to completely separate yourself from work or any other every day pressures that you encounter. A vacation is time for you to try something totally new, so take advantage of it.

A change of scenery is imperative for vacation benefits to have a full effect. If you stay in the same area where you are constantly exposed to the stress of everyday life you are not really taking a break. Also, you should not go from one demanding situation to another one on vacation. Do what is effective stress management for you, a vacation should not make you even more tense if that is 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 topic of stress and how people have dealt with it historically. Every culture during every time period has had a so called “vacation spot” according this book. Whether that meant heading out to get some clean fresh air somewhere, enjoying a hot spring, or traveling somewhere new to see the sights there was a place for people to go to take a break. Just 100 years ago they did not tell people to take a pill for any ills that they had instead they would go to a vacation “spa.”

Dr. Grossan says that a vacation can have you coming back with a “can do” attitude. The rest and relaxation frees you from negative thoughts and that feeling of “I can’t.” Feeling constant stress drains the body of good chemistry, but time away can allow this system to recover. He says that a vacation can both heal you and clear your head so that 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 holiday. There really is not one that is better than the other as long as you remove yourself from your daily situations.

In order to provide for the best stress relief before your vacation be sure to tell people that you will be unavailable while on vacation unless it is 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 leave a day to adjust when you get home before going back to work. In addition if you can try not to use clocks and just follow your body’s natural rhythm. One other important thing to consider is to stay within the budget that you set for your vacation so that you do not feel even more stressed about finances when you get home.

Nutritionist and registered dietitian Elaine Hastings offers some tips about what to eat while on vacation. You should try to avoid drinking a lot of alcohol or eating an excess of unhealthy food as this will leave you feeling sluggish and unhappy when you get home. You do not want to feel bad about gaining weight, so opt for the healthy food options instead. She says “try to balance your rest with some physical activity, and eat fruits, vegetables, and lean protein.” If you follow these tips then you will come home feeling rested, refreshed, and revitalized. So pick one of your favorite vacation spots and head there for some much needed rest and relaxation.