Stress makes constant demands on our bodies and minds. Most people assume their stresses come from the hectic work week, and the weekend is just a couple of blank days on the calendar. But stress abhors a vacuum, and we need to program a little stress-break into our schedule, without feeling guilty about it.
Take a look at some classic stress breaks, all taken without associations of guilt:
The lion takes its cat nap.
Kindergarteners take “blanket” time.
Students take recess.
Athletes sit down at half time, or between periods of play.
Executives take a retreat.
In each case, the break is well deserved after obvious periods of stressful activity, and nobody questions the need.
However, left unstructured, today’s week-end can actually leave us weakened. I participated in an interesting study where over a thousand people were asked to evaluate their weekend breaks. Over 80% said they were just as pooped on Monday morning as they were on Friday afternoon. So what happened to TGIF?
Turns out our weekends do not automatically give us a break from stress. What looked like a blank square on the weeks calendar turned out to be busy and stressful in its own way. Errands, chores, and kids’ activities generally filled the time, leaving very little in the way of unstructured rest time. (for more on how to clear next weekend's chores during the week, go to How To Clear Chores).
The definition of a home owner is someone who is constantly seen coming out of a hardware store. Bag of hinges one time, sixteen wing nuts and a paint scraper the next, you get the picture. Even renters or condo dwellers noted their weekend routines were filled with “honey-do’s”.
This highlights the point of travel as a stress strategy. Granted, we can’t all take luxury trips without stressing our budgets, but there should be some consideration for the true value of getting away from it all. When your home becomes a source of more work, travel ensures a complete stress break. Even if only for a day, and if only a short distance away.
Options abound. Hotels often offer cheap rates, especially on weekends. In many cases one can also find bargain packages including airfare for distant destinations, or find something in your own city. Once you check in, you can feel the stress begin to ease. You can relax on a sofa and admire the view, without feeling compelled to tinker with some imperfection. Someone else cleans the towels, vacuums the carpet, and clears the wastebaskets. If you have room service, the dishes are taken away for you. If you eat out, someone else has done the shopping, prepping and cooking. If you use the hot tub or pool, someone else has checked the filters dumped in the chlorine, and turned up the heat.
True, you could do all of this at home, but the distractions only seem to pause, not vanish. Relax and admire your garden? Wait, there’s a weed to be picked, or an ant farm to be dealt with, or some paint cracking around the windows. Relax in your own hot tub? Sure, right after you brush out the debris from the bottom, skim the surface, crank up the heat, refill the water level, and run to the store to buy another chlorine puck.
So the value of travel is real, and should be considered as a valuable investment in your stress defense. As an added bonus, the freedom from routine distractions is well known to improve libido. That’s why doctors a hundred years ago would advise infertile couples to “take a cruise”; often they would come back pregnant. The body seems to recognize the change of pace, and increases the sex hormones in both genders. That’s why the sexy ads for travel destinations are actually quite accurate!
So if you are feeling stressed, don’t hesitate to include travel as an important element in your defense. With good management, you can find deals to fit your budget. But please remember to keep all your work stresses away. Do not take along homework from the office, don’t check your office email every few minutes, and turn your cell phone off. Do something different, like reading a book, having long conversations, or stroll around enjoying the new scene. Don’t wait for one big vacation, then have twelve months before the next one. If you schedule a weekend stress-break every few months, your remaining home chores will still get done, and your renewed energy will help you face your work stresses a lot more efficiently.
For more info on travel bargains, read the following: