Summer is traditionally a time to take a break from work or school and spend time with friends or family on vacation.  Vacations are meant to recharge our mind and body and break the routine of daily life. Yet, too often we return from vacation more tired and stressed than before we left! It’s hard to relax and recharge if you are staying plugged into the office or worrying about unfinished projects. The practice of mindfulness can help us savor our downtime, enjoy our friends and family and come back relaxed.  Here are some ways to incorporate the tools of a mindfulness practice into your vacation.

Mindful Ways to Relax and Renew

  • Breathe.  If you are feeling stressed, pay attention to your breath as it moves in and out of your body.  Focusing on the breath allows us to pause briefly and create space in our mind and body.  The parasympathetic nervous system responds to slower breath and ignites the relaxation response.  Travel can often present challenges with traffic, airport delays and other unplanned inconveniences.  Breathing can help you control your reactions and arrive calm. 
  • Savor.  It’s difficult to savor when you are in a rush at work or at home.  The slower pace of vacation is perfect for using this tool.  Savoring simply involves slowing down and enjoying the experience with all senses. Take your time and become intentional about enjoying your favorite foods and drinks.  Notice each bite or sip and savor the taste, the texture, the smell. Eating and drinking this way allows us to enjoy more and usually consume less because we are paying attention to the physical cues of fullness.  Savor the time.  Vacation is a time to stop rushing and allow time to slow down.  And savor those around you.  Think about what you appreciate about each person and enjoy the company.
  • Unplug if possible.  Whether it is for 5 minutes, hours or days spend some time away from electronic communication.  Unplugging gives us time to connect to what is going on within us and to those who are in our presence.  Research shows that anxiety and depression rates are on the rise and much is attributed to too much time plugged in.  Whether it’s social media, news, emails, texts or other connection, we all need breaks from the constant interruption these connections bring. Also, much of the news and social media content is designed to create outrage.  Our nervous system does not distinguish our negative reaction to this content from true physical danger. This causes our stress hormones to release and makes it hard to relax. Turn on your away message and turn off the phone!
  • Bring these tools back from vacation.  Try to incorporate small breaks in each day.  A long vacation is a wonderful time to relax and renew but it is possible to incorporate these techniques into daily life and create short renewal rituals in day to day living.  The world we live in is fast-paced and it’s important to mental, emotional and physical health to find daily ways to relax. 

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