Taking a vacation — getting away from work and from your normal everyday schedule — is not just a fun diversion. It’s important for mental health and de-stressing, says Dr. Munro Cullum, professor of psychiatry at UT Southwestern Medical Center.
“Our brains need a rest now and then,” says Dr. Cullum, a neuropsychologist. “More and more we are flooded with information in ever-increasing quantities, with more ‘to-do’ lists, more to keep in mind and more things to remember — such as passwords, PIN numbers, computer procedures, day timers, appointments, cell phones, e-mail — not to mention the everyday demands of life in today’s busy society. These things add up to stress.”
Another word of advice: During vacation, leave work at the office, Dr. Cullum says. “Being ‘on-call’ via phone and e-mail during vacation is being on edge, which can detract from being in the moment and allowing your mind to have a break. Getting away for a vacation can be an important and effective means of allowing us time to de-stress and simply play and leave the ‘baggage’ behind.”
Dr. Cullum adds that this informational demand may be compounded by worries related to the current economic recession. “We hear so much negative news these days that we can get caught up in negative thought patterns, which may contribute to our own anxieties and concerns about the future.”
Some level of stress can help us keep going and hasten projects and accomplishments. If stress becomes too much, however, it can also result in negative physiological reactions that can lead to illness. Exercise, a healthful diet and adequate sleep are important, of course, but “we also need some down time, to allow our brains to work ‘offline,’” Dr. Cullum says. “That’s one reason vacations can be so beneficial. It’s a time to recharge and to do things that are outside the daily routine.”
Although even a short break can be a bit rejuvenating, significant de-stressing may take several days “just to get ourselves used to the idea of relaxing,” Dr. Cullum says.
Visit http://www.utsouthwestern.org/mentalhealth to learn more about
UT Southwestern’s clinical services in mental health.
Media Contact: LaKisha Ladson