Vacationing for a happier, healthier life

Jackie profile picBy Jackie

A wonderfully thrilling awareness occurs as you near the end of your program . . . you see glimpses of life after graduation.  Recently I was interviewing a PhD graduate and I was overjoyed by her enthusiasm for newfound time and relaxation. She described searching for events to fill her time!  Now, how awesome is that?! My sister also completed her PhD within the last month and she described feeling weird about not having pressing work to do in the evenings and weekend hours. She says she still hasn’t recovered, but she is easing into a more leisurely pace. And I realized that while I am striving toward graduation and a new normal, it is vacation that is keeping me sane. Just a few weeks ago I took a much needed break from the daily grind.  During this holiday I experienced renewed energy and a little residual laziness in the following weeks.

The week prior to leaving was sheer madness.  There was the crunch of deadlines and making arrangements for while I was away. I was concerned about my ailing dog, Molly, and took her for 3-4 vet visits in less than 2 weeks.  I called her previous owners to talk about her declining health and to arrange a visit.  During this time, my dear friend lost her feline companion of 18 years and we had healing conversations about losing something you love and preparing for loss. My partner was also working like a madwoman to manage her team and finish reports.  So home, work, and play were jam packed with activity. With sheer determination we managed to get Molly to our friends’ house for dog sitting, pick up the rental car, pack the suitcase with everything we needed, and wake up on Saturday morning ready for the long trek to Destin’s white sands and blue waters.

I think it took me a day and half to just let go.  It can be very difficult to transition from the constant stream of email and projects to simply nothing.  But by the middle of the week, I had soaking up the sun, cooling off with a dip in the ocean, lying on the beach, and falling asleep down to a science. And then I hardly cared about anything. It was like it all just washed away.  I wasn’t worried about getting back to anyone.  I wasn’t concerned about writing a paper. I didn’t feel pressure to meet a deadline.  I was in the moment.  It was a beautiful, glorious moment full of laughter, fresh air, good food, sleep, and connection with others.  It was so wonderful that resuming my regular schedule the following week was filled with many mornings where somehow the snooze button got activated several times.

While taking a break from work activity the week after vacation, I read an article Don’t be a Part of the “No Vacation Nation” and I felt validated (for thinking about what my next vacation should be). The author writes “People who don’t use their vacation time are more likely to develop heart disease and depression, and are even at greater risk of death than those who do.”  While there wasn’t a reference for this information, my own quick internet and library searches provided more support. NPR wrote an article, Relax! Vacations are Good for your Health that also touts the health and wellness benefits of vacation. The article describes research that associates vacation with better moods, more life satisfaction, lower stress, and longevity. Researchers such as Bloom, Geurts, and Kompier (2012) found that employees who took short vacations (up to 5 days) experienced positive influences to health and well-being that lasted after returning home. Although Bloom, Geurts, & Kompier’s work suggests the positive influences are short term, vacation may still be important for overall wellness.  Yes, indeed. We all need a respite. So, live long and vacation often!!! This is my plan for getting to graduation and starting the next chapter of my life.

Bloom, J., Geurts, S. E., & Kompier, M. J. (2012). Effects of Short Vacations, Vacation Activities and Experiences on Employee Health and Well-Being. Stress & Health: Journal Of The International Society For The Investigation Of Stress, 28(4), 305-318. doi:10.1002/smi.1434


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