As winter vacation season begins, it’s important to prepare for a different group of stressors that can impact the body and overall well-being.
By Deby VanOhlen, LMT
Vacation from your normal routine should not mean leaving all of your healthy habits at home. Of course, along with all of the excitement of a vacation – be it to a familiar cabin or an exciting new destination – you have to cope with three things:
- Getting there
- Staying in a place that is not your usual home
- Adjusting to a different routine.
Getting there will generally involve a “longerthanyoumightlike” time in a car, plane, or train. What should you do to reduce stress? Move around as much as possible. In a car you obviously have more control and can move in larger ways, but even in a plane or train, you can still move. Do toe-heel rocks and ankle circles for your lower legs and contract and relax your thighs for your upper legs. Un-crick your neck by slowly turning your head side-to-side and ear-to-shoulder, and then relax those ever-tight shoulders by alternately contracting and releasing the entire shoulder area. Clench and relax your fists to activate not only your hands but your whole arm.
If possible, get up and walk down the aisle to stretch all of you. Bring a travel pillow so that you can have good head and neck support and a lumbar pillow for your lower back. If you are on extended travel, bring an eye pillow to block out light.
Remember to keep hydrated! Especially in a plane, the air is much drier and drinking water can reduce fatigue and stiffness and can help your body ward off viruses. Carrying some floral water (a citrus blend is invigorating) to spritz your face will keep it moisturized and give you a much needed lift. If sinuses are a problem, bring some saline nose spray to help prevent headaches and sinus discomfort.
Staying in a New Place
Now you have landed, detrained, or driven up to your new home-away-from-home. Eating, drinking, moving, and sleeping will all be affected. Know that if you make any drastic changes to your regular eating, drinking, or activity routines (positive or negative), your body will need to adjust. So give your body the chance to do that gently so that you can enjoy the rest of your time away.
New activities are one of the joys of being away – but engage in them with some forethought. Warming up before – and stretching after – that horseback ride or skiing afternoon can make the next few days much more enjoyable.
And, whether you are in a cold climate or sunny spot, let us repeat: Keep hydrated! The water bottle should be omnipresent, and just remember to not only carry it but to actually drink from it. A wedge of lemon in the bottle can be a great little flavor enhancer.
Then there is sleep. Check out the firmness of the bed when you first arrive. If it is not okay, inform the management immediately and they may be able to accommodate you. Also, if your neck is particularly prone to stiffness or causing headaches, carry your own pillow. You may want to consider throwing in a relaxation CD, favorite decaffeinated teas, and perhaps some relaxing essential oils such as lavender – all to make sleeping easier. Packing a few of your personal comfort items can make a world of difference in your stay away from home.
Adjust and Enjoy
Being out of one’s “normal” routine can often be one of the biggest joys of a vacation as long as you are able to “roll with the punches.” There could be a broken whirlpool, a missed reservation, or a plane delay. Allow yourself extra time between plans in case of the unexpected.
Give yourself permission to breathe – externally and internally. Be really radical and be off the clock, literally, by not wearing your watch. Limit cellphone usage and check email just once a day – if at all. Stretch all of you – not just your muscles – slowly and patiently.
Remember, it is the nature of the stressors and the condition of the person being stressed, aka YOU, that determines the amount of negative stress the body feels. The stressors are often out of our control, but we do have definite choices about our condition.
Wishing you safe and relaxing travel.
As seen in West Hartford Magazine, Issue 5/2016. (Click to read full issue). Deby Van Ohlen is a massage therapist from West Hartford, and co-owner of Nurturing Hands, llc. Deby has been on the faculty at the Connecticut Center for Massage Therapy.