Get Away for Some R&R and Wellness
Posted 5/25/2017 by UHBlog
If you think a vacation is a frivolous waste of time and money, it’s time to rethink that notion. Whether you’re still working a 40-hour week or you’ve been retired for several years, taking a break from your daily routine promotes well-being.
“From a health standpoint, the benefits are so clear,” says internal medicine specialist Roy Buchinsky, MD. “Studies show a reduction of cardiovascular disease in people who take vacations regularly. More exciting are the short-term benefits – an absolute reduction of stress and anxiety.”
The World Health Organization cautions that stress is a modern epidemic, points out Dr. Buchinsky, Director of Wellness at University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center. He says taking a few days – or, preferably, a week or two – to recharge once or twice a year promotes a reduction in cortisol levels, which, in turn, lessens stress and anxiety. Working folks who return from vacation experience a rise in productivity, engagement and morale.
“Even if you’re retired, you need regular vacations because you may be getting stuck in your routine, which sometimes feels like you’re not being challenged,” he says, adding that 40 percent of Americans don’t vacation regularly. “Getting away allows you to relax and see things differently, so you come back with a different mindset and more energy to deal with stress – whether it’s because of family, finances or health.”
A wellness vacation needn’t be exotic. Sure, you can book a Mediterranean cruise or check in to a fancy health resort that serves organic meals and offers classes on mindfulness. But even a weekend getaway to a location within driving distance or a staycation to explore Northeast Ohio sites can do the trick. So can taking a few days off of work or volunteer activities to garden, paint your bedroom or organize your pantry.
Dr. Buchinsky offers these tips for making the most of a wellness vacation:
- Plan ahead. Pay for it in full upon booking, so you won’t be tempted to back out. And, just briefly, consider your return.
“I advise my patients to put a day in on the back side to recuperate before going back to work, especially if the vacation will transcend time zones,” he says.
- Unplug. Leave electronic devices in the hotel room to really focus on your travel companions.
“Maybe allow yourself one hour in the morning and one hour in the afternoon if you must really log in to work,” he says. “Other than that, put cell phones and computers away so you’re not getting barraged with emails, texts and calls that aren’t urgent. The better alternative is, truly, to unplug completely.”
- Carry medications. If airlines lose your luggage, with your blood pressure pills or insulin inside, it will increase your stress and could threaten your health.
- Make copies. The goal of a vacation is to de-stress, but if your credit cards or passport go missing, your getaway is likely to have the opposite effect. Photocopy important documents and keep them with you. Consider leaving extra copies (especially of the passport) with a grown child or other trusted adult.
- Protect your skin. Vacationers tend to soak up too much sun, especially on the first or second day of vacation. Dr. Buchinsky recommends limiting sun exposure between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., when rays are most harmful and “can cause sunburn in the short term and skin cancer in the long run," he says. “It’s important to reapply SPF 15 or 30 sunscreen every two hours.”
- Drink responsibly. It’s easy to lose count of those fruity umbrella drinks when you’re sitting by the pool, but over-imbibing “can cause accidents and affect interactions with your partner, spouse or children, or interfere with medications,” Dr. Buchinsky says. He advises limiting cocktails to two a day for men and one for women.
- Be creative. If you don’t have the time or funds for a traditional vacation, treat yourself to a mini-break. Picnic in the Metroparks, attend a concert, visit museums, drive out to Amish country or schedule a massage.
“You don’t have to go to a spa to feel pampered,” he says. “You can go somewhere near home. Or, the UH Connor Integrative Health Network provides massages and yoga classes for men and women.”
Roy Buchinsky, MD, is an internal medicine specialist and Director of Wellness at University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center. You can request an appointment with Dr. Buchinsky or any other doctor online.