Prescription: Vacation

A recent Gallup report examines how vacations benefit health and well-being. You don’t have to hop on a plane to take a break that is physically and emotionally recharging.

“Think of a good vacation as a visit to the garage for a tune-up or an oil change,” says Elmer Smith, M.D., a primary care physician at Texas Star Adult Medicine in Bedford, a Texas Health Physicians Group practice. “A vacation recharges our batteries by keeping stress levels low and reducing blood pressure and heart rate.”

The benefits don’t end with the cardiovascular system. According to Dr. Smith, unplugging from the work routine and all of the technologies that come with it can be directly associated with a reduction in common illnesses. Moreover, relaxing the mind can also help ease emotional maladies such as anxiety and depression.

The Anatomy of an Escape

To be truly effective, vacations do not need to be far away. Simply committing to seven or eight hours of sleep each night can help put your mind and body in vacation mode. Training in mindfulness and meditation can help, as well.

“Relaxation is not one size fits all,” Dr. Smith says. “Research supports that even a 10-minute power nap or short walk in nature can provide the brain with powerful recharging benefits and elevate serotonin levels so you feel more relaxed.”

Plus, unwinding can help regulate your body’s levels of melatonin, the hormone that signals your body to sleep when it starts to get dark outside.

Ready, Set, Vacate!

The act of planning any getaway can help your brain transition to a more relaxed space. Envisioning beaches, country scenes and sweeping mountaintops you are about to visit can be truly therapeutic.

Once you have settled on the time and place for your next vacation, make a commitment to yourself to truly disconnect once you get there. Keep friends and family in the loop so they can help you stay accountable if you’re itching to check your email or return a text. If you MUST be a little bit available via technology, work to limit your screen time to 30 minutes per day while on vacation.

“Even staying semi-connected to work while on vacation is like only taking half your dose of a prescription,” Dr. Smith says. “Like the hard drive in our laptops, the brain needs to be reset and defragmented. Do anything to stop yourself from reaching for your technology of choice for any reason. Your brain and body will thank you.”

In search of a primary care physician to help you be well? Visit THPG.org to find a doctor near you.

Physicians employed by Texas Health Physicians Group practice independently and are not employees of the hospital or Texas Health Resources.

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