In this month’s post, Dr Julia Sen explains the importance that taking holidays has on our mental health…
Are you going on holiday this Summer? If so, I bet you’re super excited! What is it about the idea of a holiday that makes us feel so good? Rarely stress-free, travel inevitably brings unpredictability – my current trip involved a 3am white knuckle ride to Heathrow after a last-minute flight change- thank you, BA. Having arrived at your destination, the accommodation may not meet your expectations and all too often, those wistfully anticipated romantic sunsets end up being ruined by jet lag-induced bickering and a bit of a dodgy tummy.
Interestingly, a study of teachers by the University of Sheffield in 2022 reported that feelings of emotional exhaustion, anxiety and depressed mood improved before the holiday had even begun, falling back to pre-vacation levels within 2 weeks of return to work. So even the anticipation of a holiday makes us feel better…… but why?
Going on holiday takes us away from our everyday lives, from work and mundane chores; we can rest, think, reconnect with ourselves and our partners and we have the opportunity to look at our lives from a new perspective. No wonder we yearn for escape!
Human Doings It seems crazy that our everyday lives have become so frenetic and task oriented that we only grant ourselves a few weeks each year to undertake this essential self-care. To use a cliche, we spend our lives doing, rather than being. Wouldn’t it be great if we could extend that holiday glow of wellbeing into our lives after our return from our fortnight away? Seems impossible……? I disagree
1) Take holidays every day
In his book’ “Feel Better in 5”, Dr Rangan Chatterjee, GP and lifestyle medicine practitioner, advocates taking five minutes out of our usual activities, five times every day to take a “break” of various sorts, depending on what our minds/bodies/relationships need at that particular time. Breathing exercises or meditation for a sense of calm; cracking out some squats and lunges or few yoga asanas, if you want to be more active, or my personal favourite, for relationship connection, is the “Tea Ritual”. Sitting down with your partner and a cup of tea, simply checking in with each other, each giving their undivided attention. I recently discovered that my parents have unwittingly been doing this for quite a number of years, although I’m pretty sure my dad prefers their Prosecco ritual!
2) Get out!
On vacation spend more time outdoors; sitting by the ocean (as I’m doing right now), hiking, camping, skiing or sailing, and we’re likely to be more physically active. Fresh air, exercise and nature are all proven stress relievers and there’s no need to be somewhere exotic – a short walk in good ol’ Blighty will do the trick, so try to get outside every day and get those vitamin D levels up!
3) Practice “Holiday” eating
We sit down for meals with loved ones and savour every mouthful when we’re away, yet at home we’re more likely to chomp mindlessly, whilst watching TV or working on our computers (guilty!). Making at least one meal a day an opportunity to sit with our families, taking time to enjoy the flavours and textures, just as we would in a restaurant, will make even simple fare a much richer experience.
4) Have fun every day
Why not make enjoyment the hallmark of a successful day instead of achievement? Of course, we all have work to complete and chores to be done, but play and relaxation actually enhance productivity, so you will achieve more if you take time out to do things that bring you joy.
I’m flying home tomorrow, having had a truly wonderful holiday and I’m loving this feeling of wellbeing and calm. I’m going to use these techniques to hold onto my inner glow long after my tan has faded and hope you find them helpful too.
For those of you planning to jet off somewhere hot and sunny in the coming months, bon voyage! I hope you enjoy every second. Don’t forget to pack the SPF……and some Immodium (because, well, you never know).
Photo by Julia Volk
Dr Julia Sen is a Consultant Ophthalmic Plastic, Reconstructive & Cosmetic Surgeon with more than 20 years of experience in her field. Every month on DLUXE she shares with us her own observations from almost 30 years of medical practice and 50 years of life experience. One of the many topics she is knowledgeable about is skin.
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