Stress Tips for Vacation and Life
by Debbie Mandel
My husband and I just returned from hiking with another couple in the various terrains and rarified air of the Canadian Rockies. Although the connecting flights from New York to Calgary were physically and mentally challenging - like a modern-day version of a medieval quest, the natural, fragrant beauty I encountered was mystical and well worth the journey.
Hiking for us meant using stress-management skills- especially on vacation which can be fraught with unexpected stress. The required skills include: preparation, core stability, balance, focus, awareness, a sense of humor and an eye for joy. The environment and weather were constantly changing despite our valiant attempts to organize. We dressed in layers and tread carefully and respectfully. We were rewarded with amazing vistas.
Since we traveled with friends who prefer shopping malls, fine dining and museums to hiking and roughing it, juggling interests and adapting to far more than the mountainous environment were necessary. Here are some de-stressing strategies that helped us in our journey. Fortunately, these concrete skills can be transferred to daily living.
- Activate your sense of humor. Our life was a daily sitcom. My friend seriously and emphatically commented, “Why don’t they cut down some of these pine trees, so that I can get a better view of the mountains.” I will never let him forget that remark!
- Lower your expectations. People who recommended this trip related wonderful (I presume mythical) stories about bears, caribou, bison and elk that they had seen along the highway to the ice fields of Jasper. Although we saw a few mountain goats, squirrels and pet dogs, we desperately sought the real McCoy. I even considered befriending someone’s husky, taking a photo with the dog (from a distance) and telling people that I tamed a wolf. Disappointment inevitably follows when you expect too much.
- Go with the flow. When a young waitress accidentally spilled a few drops of orange juice on my friend, he lost his cool, especially since he spent the night in a hot cabin. Instead of feeling entitled to air conditioning where none exists or expecting people and events in your life to interact with you without any glitches, ease up and let it go. You will feel cooler and more comfortable. Anger generates unnecessary heat and discomfort.
- When you feel a little pain, don’t give up. At first the other couple felt a bit sore from hiking and wanted to give up exploring the countryside for more traditional vacation activities like driving and pointing. However, with a little encouragement they realized that the next day and the day after, hiking became easier and more fun. By the end of the trip they felt healthier, more energetic and accomplished. Turn back your biological clock by trying new things.
- Absorb and inhale the surrounding natural beauty. Become more natural and relaxed with nature - You can do this even in your own backyard. When my husband bent down to dip his hand in a cool creek, he accidentally dropped his camera and lost magnificent photos of Lake Maraigne. Needless to say he felt disappointed. However, we can never lose the images in our minds and hearts. Take Kodak moments - internally. By absorbing the beauty it becomes yours forever to recall when you need it.
- Smile and greet other people even if they dont respond. During the course of our walks we would encounter people of different cultures. A smile is universal. I marveled at the fact that some looked away to avoid my smile or looked right through me without any acknowledgement. But I just kept on smiling and saying, Hi. Those who responded more than made up for it.
Although piled-up work waits for me, my heart feels at ease. My creativity levels are higher because I took a vacation. I am tackling each task - one at a time. I have concluded that multi-tasking is actually less efficient and more stressful. How wonderful to balance work with play. Well, it’s time for a coffee break…
Debbie Mandel, MA is the author of Turn On Your Inner Light: Fitness for Body, Mind and Soul, a stress-reduction specialist, motivational speaker, a personal trainer and mind/body lecturer. She is the host of the weekly Turn On Your Inner Light Show on WHLI 1100AM in New York City , produces a weekly wellness newsletter, and has been featured on radio/ TV and print media. To learn more visit: www.turnonyourinnerlight.com