Vacations: More Than Meets the Eye

Man and woman who jump on a beach

Ahhhhh, summer break! School’s out for kids, educators might be able to take some time off from their jobs, or at least have a modified schedule without as many of the kids in the building, and lots of families will try to take some sort of vacation. Whether a stay-cation or a trip to some exotic location, give yourself the gift that keeps on giving: real time away from work.

Vacations have been proven to alleviate perceived job stress and burnout. However, not all vacations are equal; how vacations are structured significantly impact health-related outcomes. Before taking that next vacation, it might be a good idea to focus on these specific areas:

  • Make sure you have enough time for yourself and your needs. Everyone has people to see, places to go, and things to do. That’s not such an unusual description for a vacation. But did you remember to carve out a little time for yourself? Will there be time to read a book? As in, a book for pleasure…totally unrelated to work? Maybe listen to music of your choice, or even enjoy the views around you? Make sure you consider your personal needs, as well as the needs of others. Vacations need to meet some of the needs of everyone!
  • Include a good amount of physical exercise. Whether your vacation spot includes water, land, or air activities, engaging in physical activities needs to be a part of the plan. Walk or hike while you enjoy nature or the views. Swim, snorkel, or scuba in the water, or fish, kayak, or sail…all of these options involving water can be enough to combine fun with much-needed cardio and release those endorphins, resulting in feelings of euphoria, enhancement of the immune response, and reduction of any leftover feelings of stress. Even parasailing or hot air balloons can fit the bill when planning vacation activities. What’s the preference and ability level of all going on the vacation? Plan, in advance, some activities that take everyone’s needs into consideration.
  • Make sure you get enough sleep each night. All of those daytime activities might make you tired enough that you’ll be inclined to sleep longer hours, but changing from your home schedule just might derail the plan. Give yourself permission to start a few of your days in a lazy way. Is there a morning you might decide to eat breakfast a little later, or read in bed? Give yourself time to fall back asleep, or even taking a nap on the beach could help you catch up on much-needed sleep. Remember, according to the Sleep Foundation, elementary and middle school students need 9-11 hours of sleep, high school students need 8-10 hours of sleep, and adults need 7-9 hours. And lack of adequate sleep can result in a short temper, lack of focus, long-term mood disorders like depression and anxiety, a lower libido, and health concerns related to weight gain and diabetes.
  • And don’t forget to socialize! Socializing is an important interaction for everyone. It is proven to improve health and increase longevity, and can be a source of social support benefitting both the giver and receiver. In fact, social connections are one of the biggest predictors for health, happiness, and longevity. And when a person ages, the importance becomes even more significant as socialization is proven to diminish dementia, reduce stress, and enhance intellectual stimulation when it builds up cognitive reserve to compensate for lost brain cells or connections. Whether you are interacting with people you know, or taking the time to chat with strangers, make an extra effort to socialize on your next vacation.

So, as the summer progresses, get rid of that line of negative thinking that you can’t afford the vacation of your dreams. Think of it as an investment in your future health and happiness. VA-CA, here we come!

Be well!!

Dr. W

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