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Travel can help our physical and emotional health.

Updated: Aug 27, 2020

Physical and emotional health.

Your health is important. Listen to me yammer on long enough and you will most likely hear something like "take a break or your body will." Yes, I know - so clever and yet true. Have you ever recognized exhaustion creeping in and that you really should take a weekend off? Then WHAM, you get sick so your special weekend away involves laying on the couch sipping on bad Campbell's chicken noodle soup and watching reruns of TV shows that you just don't care about (commercials included) or binge watching Netflix shows ad nauseam.

In talking with small business owners for many years and now being one myself I know how difficult it is to stop. And how necessary. Busy professionals like to think we are vital to the operation of the world and do not get me wrong, we are important. You are important. But perhaps, not that important. If you go away for a week and (heaven forbid) turn off your cell phone, the world will not fall apart and the sky crash in upon you. (And if it does, it did not have anything to do with you being in Aruba for the last week.)

The American Psychological Association (APA) says on its website at that "stress can be a reaction to a short-lived situation, such as being stuck in traffic. Or it can last a long time if you're dealing with relationship problems, a spouse's death or other serious situations. Stress becomes dangerous when it interferes with your ability to live a normal life over an extended period. You may feel tired, unable to concentrate or irritable. Stress can also damage your physical health." Ever feel like this? I know I do.

Dr. Matthew Sleeth, a former emergency room physician, says in a recent January 2013 CNN Health interview, "we go 24/7 now, and I think it's having health consequences. I think more and more, there's a consensus that it leads to depression and anxiety." He goes on to suggest taking at least one day a week to rest as a "stop day". He continues, "if you know you have a habit of a weekly day of rest, of stopping, then you always know that's out in front of you. A lot of people "go" and never know when it is that they're going to come to rest."

As a psychologist who specializes in treating people who have anxiety disorders, Dr. Tamar E. Chansky, mentions to Well a health blog by the New York Times, that people need to "let go of the rope." She finds that taking a break is important and a healthy response to work and the anxiety caused by our over-worked lives. Dr. Chansky recommends that you "unplug and refresh". She mentions taking a short "breathing break" or doing something physical like taking a bike ride or even perusing a photo album.

Love to Know's article on "Traveling is a Good Method to Release Stress" reminds us that "fresh air and sunshine are good for our health. Fresh air increases oxygen in our blood and in turn, gives us more energy. Sunshine is a mood elevator and can help people ward off depression." They mention the additional benefits of improved performance at work, improved sleep and improved heart health. Pretty impressive!

The unique thing about travel (not the planning, mind you, but the experience itself of getting away) is that it combines a 'stop day' or week or month with the opportunity to do something different and often something physical. Travel allows you to escape for a moment. The purpose is not to simply forget or ignore the stresses you are under, but to see the bigger picture of life and remember what is important. It allows you time. Time to relax, be refreshed, and then to be ready to come back to work and to work well with renewed energy. You might even have a smile on your face the next Monday morning.

Suggestions: Physically take a break by putting a slide show on your computer of the last vacation you were on and feel the tension in your shoulders slip away. Take a few moments to remember your favorite memory and breathe deeply. Go to Gettysburg for the weekend and enjoy a night at a local B&B after eating a delicious dinner on an organic farm. Turn off the cell phone. Stop answering emails after work and instead take 15 minutes to appreciate the sound of the spring birds. Take the family to Pinchot park to throw the Frisbee with your children or simply pack your lunch and go for a walk in the middle of the day by the Susquehanna River.

Visit a health and wellness resort  where you can get pampered with a relaxing spa treatment and learn about a healthy diet from the nutritionist. Let someone massage your neck, or your tired feet. Try the aromatherapy option or even some of the new light treatments where colored lights, a peaceful atmosphere and quiet music help to you to relax. Borrow a kayak or complimentary sailboat to explore the nearby area and get some exercise. Ride a bike instead of taking a taxi or enjoy a rousing game of tennis. Take part in the yoga class down by the crystal clear water and hear the waves lapping against the sand. On the way to the pool, pick up a delicious blend of exotic fruit juices prepared just for you from the Health Bar.

If you feel like you cannot get away for a full week, take a few long weekends throughout the year to vacation in bite-size pieces but set it up in advance. Plan to get away. If you wait for the time to appear magically, it won't. You have to make getting away or taking a break a priority. Why? Because it is good for your health!

If you have the flexibility, try extending your vacation a few days longer than normal. It might actually be a bit uncomfortable for some people at first but that most likely means you need the break all the more. No matter what you choose, your mood will start to lighten and you might even feel better.

Did you know? If you have significant health issues, some people are now even taking medical 'vacations' (medical tourism) where people go from a developed country to a less developed country for medical care from world-class physicians at potentially more reasonable prices than might be found in their native country of residence. Obviously there can be some huge risks with this but if done properly, also some great benefits not to mention incredible scenery.

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