When stress and strain start to affect your productivity, consider going away on vacation to allow your body and mind to heal.

By Dr. Mel Borins, Family Physician, Author, Speaker

There is no doubt that holidays are healing. When you are on vacation the mind and the body start to repair themselves from the stress and strain of everyday life. Taking a holiday is very good for what ails you. Vacations can change the direction of your life and even help you to recover from a physical or emotional illness.

Many scientific studies support the idea that vacations are therapeutic. Research shows, for example, that the lack of vacations may be contributing directly to heart disease. Other studies have also shown a healthy relationship between feeling good and getting away from it all. There was a positive relationship between taking vacations and increasing intellectual functioning. The benefits of getting away from it all, it seems, extend well after we’ve gotten away from it all. A well-organized, one-week  package holiday can have lasting benefits.

For many of us, leisure time can be difficult to handle. The strong work ethic we were raised with makes us feel lazy or guilty when we do not have our noses to the grindstone. This guilt has been reinforced by an educational system that is focused on helping students develop marketable skills so they can find a job. Our educational institutions have not concerned themselves with teaching us what to do with our free time. Therefore, it becomes exceedingly important  to use your time away from work wisely: to recharge your batteries, to re-think your career options, to re-evaluate your goals in life, and to devote time and attention to your loved ones.

Many people argue that if they go away they will miss out on an opportunity at work. Some people fear that if they go away their job will be gone when they return. Others claim travelling is too expensive. In many ways, however, these fears are excuses. You don’t have to be at work every day to be a valuable employee. Indeed, a refreshed employee is actually a more valuable — and productive — employee.

When you are healthy, you are physically, emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually in balance.  You are in harmony with your external environment, you feel good, your body’s systems are functioning properly, and you are free of pain. Stress can upset this natural balance and cause disease.  Usually these stresses are in your external environment, and how you react to the demands they place on you determines your level of comfort.

Sometimes when you are under stress you know your body is not working well, but you are so swept up in things you are blind to this fact. Even worse, sometimes you know what the stressful factors are, but you are so overwhelmed you just can’t cope.  You are in the midst of a battle but you can’t seem to change your battle plan to meet the onslaught or retreat from the skirmish.

Preventive breaks are vitally important to help you avoid getting sick. The body, in its wisdom, gives you messages to slow down.  If you ignore these messages and keep overworking, or maintain a stressful lifestyle, you may well get sick and be forced to slow down — for a long time. Taking a vacation is one of the best ways I know to break the pattern of daily stress.  Don’t wait until you face a serious illness before you re-evaluate your life. The philosopher Bertrand Russel said that one “advantage of work was that it makes holidays more delicious when they come.”

Stooped, frail, round-shouldered, and pasty white, I was exhausted physically and emotionally, and 10 pounds overweight. I gazed back for the last time at the huge brick hospital, which had been like a prison to me. I had entered my internship bright-eyed, excited and a little frightened at the prospect of treating patients for the first time as a full-fledged doctor.  I never thought the year would be such an ordeal, and the hospital that I had longed to work in would suck me dry and leave me crying inside. Somehow I survived.

By the end of the year Bonnie guided my heartless, exhausted, worn-out shell of a body out of the grounds of the hospital, back to our cosy apartment to pack our bags to begin our 14-month journey around the world. The trip was just what the doctor needed.  I lost the 10 pounds, relit the shine on my skin, brightened my eyes, toned my muscles, and got myself into the best physical shape I have ever been at any time in my life. Most significantly my enthusiasm for life was rekindled, my curiosity reawakened, and I had the peace to re-dream my dreams and rethink the direction of my life.  I was reborn.

What does it take to get you to take a vacation?  How long do you have to work; how many hours do you have to put in; and what do you have to accomplish before you give yourself permission to take a break?

**Dr. Borins will be leading a cultural and educational tour to India February 2014. If you would like to join him please go here.

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Dr. Mel Borins, a family physician in a private practice and an active staff member at St. Joseph’s Health Centre in Toronto, helps train Physicians in Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Counseling and Psychotherapy, Stress Management and Communications. He is a leading expert in health and wellness, offering fresh perspectives to the often serious subjects of health and stress management. www.melborinscreative.com