Sunday, July 26, 2009


Tomorrow morning I leave Vancouver for Nanaimo where I will spend the next ten days in a small guest house on Westwood Lake, relaxing on my own throughout the day and spending evenings with dear friends.

I have packed good books, good music, walking shoes, and paper and pencils but I most look forward to slow, easy hours of doing nothing. It is healing to be apart from the busyness of life at home. There's something about being geographically away from familiar environs that refreshes and restores, providing a new perspective on the life left behind.

Whether you're a family caregiver enjoying respite or a helping professional taking this year's quota of holiday days, there are benefits to be accrued through getting away on vacation:

1. You live longer. A State University of New York study of men ages 35 - 57 suggests that men who take vacations every year reduce their overall risk of death by about 20% and their risk of death from heart disease by almost 30%.

2. Your mental health is better. Women who vacation frequently are less likely to become tense, depressed or tired and are more satisfied with their marriages according to a study published in the Wisconsin Medical Journal in 2005. Vacations provide a break from everyday stressors, allowing release of built up tension.

3. You can enrich your relationships. Vacations provide time to reconnect with yourself and with friends and loved ones who may take second place to workload, on- call shifts, emergencies or deadlines during the rest of the year.

4. Your creative side has space to emerge. Once you have had a chance to catch up on your rest, there is energy and space for the right side of your brain to find some expression in creative pursuits - art, building, music, crafts, writing, dancing.

5. You have the opportunity to play. Away from the responsibilities and pressures of your daily work schedule, the child lurking within finds permission to come out to play. Whether playing cards on the deck of your cottage, windsurfing at the beach, throwing a frisbee or exploring new fields or villages, vacations give you the uninterrupted freedom to play.

6. You can be more productive. Taking regular breaks to rest and renew your strength allows you to become more efficient in your caregiving work, to problem solve outside the box and to enjoy the process more. Life looks different when you're rested - there seem to be more options and possibilities.

Now, these benefits are available only if we do actually take vacations. A 2006 survey by Harris Interaction and Expedia found that 36% of workers didn't plan to use all their paid vacation and 37% never took more than a week off at a time. So, think about when you last had a good break. Was it more than six months ago? Then it's time to start planning, start saving, start asking for help so that you too can experience the joy and refreshment of a good vacation.

See you in August!

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