The Trauma Lines Blog

Association of Traumatic Stress Specialists

Think Twice About Skipping That Vacation!

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If we haven’t heard the typical excuses before, we’ve likely said them ourselves: “I can’t get away from work; I’m way too busy; I really should save that money.”

With the summer season well underway, some of us have been able to take some time off, while others of us are in desperate need of a reprieve. Recently I came across an article in Psychology Today that says we all should think twice about skipping that next vacation. Researchers say that taking a vacation can greatly help to improve your mental and physical health:

It’s clear that, especially in this moment of national stress overload, skipping vacation can actually put your physical, mental, and fiscal health at risk.

“National stress overload” — what could that possibly mean? How about our overseas conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, rampant unemployment, falling home prices, foreclosures, bankruptcy, and on and on. Our country is barely making its way out of a recession that was classified by some as the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.

Despite all the stresses, despite the fact that many feel now more than ever that this may be the best time to skip the days off in lieu of the long hours, you may be wrong:

That’s right: the research is in and the experts have spoken. The consensus: based on the benefits it confers and the consequences of skipping it, vacation, often considered an indulgence, needs to be rethought as a basic right and a priority, just like saving for retirement, exercising, and getting a yearly physical…Indeed, studies show that vacation is good for your cardiovascular health and your waistline, lowers your cortisol levels and your blood pressure, and may aid in recovery from diseases like cancer.

The famous Framingham Heart Study followed approximately 12,000 men ages 35 – 57 at risk of heart disease, for nine years. Researchers wanted to know if there were ways to improve the men’s longevity. The participants were asked about a number of lifestyle topics, including vacation. “The more frequent the vacations, the longer the men lived,” says researcher Karen Matthews of the University of Pittsburgh Body-Mind Center, who analyzed the data to assess the benefits of vacations. This held true even when controlling for variables like higher education and income (which are predictive of longer lifespan); the link between vacation and longevity, Matthews and others tell us, is undeniable. As a follow up, State University of New York at Oswego researchers crunched the Framingham data yet again, and discovered that men who take vacations every year reduce their overall risk of death by about 20 percent, and their risk of death from heart disease by as much as 30 percent.

Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh Mind-Body Center also surveyed nearly 1,400 subjects who had participated in four other studies on breast cancer and cardiovascular disease. They were asked how often they’d spent the previous month doing something they enjoyed. Leisure, including vacation, Matthews says, contributed to a more positive mindset and dramatically lower levels of clinical depression. And our mental health is a crucial part of our arsenal for fighting disease.

If you can’t afford a getaway or a vacation just isn’t in the cards, researchers are quick to point out that simply spending time in nature can help to improve your mental health:

Even trading your office cubicle for a hike in the woods can help. Getting away to someplace green, surrounding yourself with natural beauty, can actually increase immune function, a series of studies recently found. How can this be? Certainly stress reduction has something to do with it. But as the Science Times recently reported, scientists believe that nature heals us with phytoncides, airborne chemicals emitted by plants that are good for what ails us. 

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Written by traumalines

July 19, 2010 at 7:39 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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