To kids, summer vacation means time off from school. To many parents, vacation of any kind seems like a luxury they can’t afford. But Krikor Deramerian, M.D., a pediatrician and “Wellness Champion” at Kaiser Permanente’s Baldwin Park Medical Center, says you can’t afford not to take a break.
Hectic work and school routines cause the body to pump out the stress hormone cortisol. “When this is sustained, it has effects on your body and mind,” Deramerian says. “It’s going to have consequences.” These can include anxiety and depression, problems with concentration and sleep, digestive issues, headaches, weight gain and even heart disease.
A break from these routines sends your stress levels back to normal, and you don’t have to book an exotic trip to make that happen. “You can be on your back porch or you can be on the top of Machu Picchu,” says Deramerian. “A vacation really is just unplugging.”
Taking at least 24 hours off will help everyone shift from the work and school mindset, and even a short day trip to the mountains or the beach can make a difference.
Before your break, make sure your work responsibilities are covered. Then make a point of not checking email or taking calls. “You should look to the rest of your household to do the same thing,” Deramerian says. Parents who have to check in with the office and kids who have summer schoolwork should set specific, limited times to take care of that.
Taking a break gives you a chance to spend time with the family in a more relaxed way, but you should also trade off childcare responsibilities with your spouse and each take time for yourself. “Parenting is also work, so you need a little break from that as well,” Deramerian says.
Taking time off also gives you a chance to test-drive some healthier routines. Practice getting at least seven hours of sleep each night. Try a yoga or kickboxing class or a new sport. Give “Meatless Monday” a chance. “Try something you haven’t experienced before, and take it back and make it fit in your everyday life,” Deramerian advises.
The health benefits of even a short break can be long-lasting, as can the consequences of skipping time off. “You will burn out,” says Deramerian. “Our bodies are not designed for this constant ‘go’ attitude.”