Saturday, September 12, 2009

Vacation? Read This if You Don’t Have Time for One

Sure, it feels like it costs more than your mortgage to drive to the beach or that gorgeous campsite where you got engaged. But it costs more not to. This year, Americans will throw away an estimated 465 million vacation days, according to an survey. And in the process, they'll accelerate the rate at which their bodies age. Overcommitment to work you don't love leads to chronic stress. (Are you working yourself to death? And while it might get you a promotion (but probably won't; more on that later), it definitely puts you on the fast track to memory loss, wrinkles, impotence, heart disease, stroke, infections, cancer risk, and even death. (We bet you're Googling “late-season vacations” already. Good.)

Whatever your excuse for not taking a break -- your job can't live without you, there's no time to plan it, you can't afford your dream trip -- sorry, it's not good enough. We YOU docs use all our vacation time. So join us (not literally on our getaways, but in taking time off). The truth is, being a vacation martyr isn't doing anyone any favors. Not your family. Not your employer. And definitely not you. Taking time off regularly -- at least once or twice a year -- may be as vital to your emotional and physical well-being as keeping active or eating right.

The mere act of taking a vacation helps stop your job from aging you. Let's pause for a moment to define "vacation." It means not working. And that means not BlackBerry-ing, not lugging along your laptop to "catch up a little," not checking in with the office four times a day. Stave off the temptation to think that working on vacation will make your return easier. It's a myth. People who work during their vacations are more likely to feel overwhelmed when they return than their "I won't be checking e-mail" peers. And, not surprisingly, workaholics are also less likely to feel relaxed and energized.

Instead, kick back, lighten up, and let your vacation turn your body clock back. Try this:

• Go in pairs. Schedule long walks with your family or hosts, if you're visiting friends. You'll get the benefits of bonding and physical activity at the same time.

• Get lost on purpose. Then, find your way back without a GPS. Stretching your mind makes you younger, and who cares if you make a wrong turn -- with luck, you'll discover a terrific new view/restaurant/bird sanctuary/farm stand in the process. Or do other new things you've wanted to do, like visit a museum or area near your town that you've not been to.

• Schedule afternoon sex. Yes, we know that's part of what vacations are for, but don't depend on spontaneity. Scheduling it often brings back the anticipation and intensity.

• Get all the sleep you need. While you're free of your usual obligations, re-establish a regular sleep and exercise pattern.

• Get cooking. Download recipes (check for healthy ones) and make meals together as a family or with your partner. You'll learn to get younger for the long term.

• Indulge a bit.
There are Pinot Noirs to be uncorked, tapas to try, marshmallows to be roasted. Don't miss any of it. Just try to avoid overindulging. Excessive drinking, eating, and partying will disrupt your sleep, upset your stomach, and leave you feeling worse for the wear.

One more tip for vacation success: Aim for at least 7 days. It usually takes 2 to 3 days to really relax and get into the vacation groove. Then, you need time to enjoy that state. Longer breaks tend to have greater psychological benefits than shorter ones (slip THAT fact to the supervisor who approves your vacation time!). You don't even have to go anywhere: We love vacationing in our home towns and exploring nearby tourist areas with our families -- both the New York and Cleveland areas are filled with great ones.

So, whether you take time off to perfect your knife skills and a great gazpacho, bike to every farmers market in a 50-mile radius, feel the sand between your toes, or tour the Taj Mahal, just make it happen. Vacation isn't a luxury; it's a health necessity.

1 comment:

Neelum said...

That is an excellent article...very good, well thought out points as well... So when are we going on a vacation?