The Science of Vacationing and Healing
When was the last time you said aloud, “I need a vacation!” It was probably in a time of stress or over weeks of rotting frustration or possibly during a period of grieving. Maybe after a long arduous season of never-ending health treatments? I sure said it several times during and after my breast cancer treatments.
We throw that comment around all the time. How much do we really heal when we go on vacation?
Guess what?! There is a science behind taking a vacation to heal! You can literally change your genes!
According to a study by scientists from School of Medicine from Mt. Sinai, University of California, San Francisco and Harvard Medical School, the most notable changes in genes were related to stress responses and immune function. (Stress Reduction Study)
After a week of vacationing at a resort, the actual biology of the vacationer changed significantly for the better.
“It’s intuitive that taking a vacation reduces biological processes related to stress, but it was still impressive to see the large changes in gene expression from being away from the busy pace of life, in a relaxing environment, in such a short period of time…” said Elissa S. Epel, PhD. Professor of Psychiatry at University of California, San Francisco.
I know that going on a vacation, even for just a few days is healing and it can provide an opportunity for me to reset my headspace. But did you know that your genes can be altered by giving your body the “medicine” it needs to heal?
I didn’t realize the power of a vacation.
My cancer journey has had its emotional up and downs. I am fortunate to have a solid support system that grounds me. However, it did not start out that way. It took inwardness and the confidence to know that my body was asking for more- the weight of being a parent, starting a new business and dealing with the recent breast cancer diagnosis was all too much.
I intuitively knew that I needed to physically and geographically remove myself for a short period to focus on the breast cancer journey on my own terms. No distractions- just letting the thought of rest and healing overcome my body. Pure bliss! Pure power!
How do you make the best of your powerful, gene altering vacation? I may not have perfected the science, but I can tell you how I take full advantage of the healing process!
It is not easy to pack your bags and leave your busy- activity filled life, especially if you have small children. (I thank God for my incredibly supportive husband and my village of parents everyday!) But, if you are going to allow yourself to heal, you will need to only worry about ONE person. YOU! Don’t worry- you can have another intentional vacation with your loved ones soon. Give yourself this one.
Go on a vacation with lots of water or blue skies. Research suggests that seeing large blue spaces- like open blue skies or large body of water will reduce psychological distress. (Lower psychological distress study) Maybe don’t opt out on the ocean view. Instead splurge for the view!
I can honestly attest to the fact that if I don’t get enough sleep, I feel unhealthy and I panic about breast cancer recurrence. I try to get at least 8-10 hours of sleep a night. However, having small kids can make it nearly impossible. When you take your vacation, let yourself sleep in, nap out on the balcony, pool, or on the beach. Enjoy the uninterrupted dream-like state that your body deserves. When your body feels rested, emotional, physical and psychological healing takes place. True story!
Eat Small Meals
You don’t need to splurge on the all-inclusive resort with endless buffets or alcoholic beverages- if you want to, that’s fine too. But I recommend that you fill your body with as many nutrient rich foods during this time. Enjoy the juices, fruits, vegetables. Stay away from the fried and heavy foods as well as hormone filled meats. Instead, eat small meals that will quench the fire for a few hours. Also, slow down while eating. Focus on each bite you take and thank it for nourishing you and sustaining you during this wonderful time.
For many of us, we spend the majority of our time, sitting at an office or in the car. It may be a challenge to jump start a fitness routine when you are bored and unmotivated by the daily grind you have now. I propose that you take your vacation time to practice good habits. Take the stairs instead of the elevator at the resort. Maybe do some laps in the pool or start your day at the gym or a yoga class. No one ever regrets a little physical activity, especially if you are focusing on healthy living and empowering your body to heal.
My favorite must do- the SPA. To be completely honest, I absolutely adore a great massage and facial and will go out of my way to make this time for myself. Splurge on yourself here- try a new treatment or scrub. Let down your hair and soak in a mineral tub or indulge in a mud facial. Just do it! There is something so healing about this quiet time and ability to let a professional care for you in this way. Another thing that you’ll never regret!
Pray/Meditate/Journal- Express Your Gratitude
On your healing vacation, give yourself at least one hour a day to express your gratitude. That could manifest itself thought praying, meditating or journaling. Open your heart and quiet your mind and let the gratitude pour in. You have so much to be grateful for! Honestly, this is where the TRUE healing begins.
Heidi is a breast cancer survivor, diagnosed with Stage II at the age of 34. She lives in Port Townsend, Washington with her husband and two children who were the inspiration through her treatments. She is passionate about living her life after cancer by empowering those who have been effected by cancer. She provides one on one consultations and life coaching to break through the chains of cancer victimization and hopelessness. Heidi is positively picking up the pieces of life after cancer and is exploring alternative ways of preventing reoccurrence. She believes in healing the body with nutrition, movement and prayer.
An advocate for breast cancer survivors, Heidi writes about her journey in her blog, www.happilyeveraftercancer.com
Published articles on: