If there were a way to live life more like you were at a re­treat than stuck in a rut, would you try it? Here’s your chance, with seven easy steps to stress-free liv­ing.

Best Health - - CONTENTS - by LISA KADANE

Va­ca­tion bliss can be taken home like a sou­venir. Don’t be­lieve us? Read on.

I feel fan­tas­tic on va­ca­tion.

The aches and pains I have at home dis­ap­pear, all of my ten­sion drains, and I sleep bet­ter and have more en­ergy. If only I could pack that blissed-out feel­ing into my suit­case as a sou­venir.

“We feel so great on hol­i­day be­cause we let go of all of life’s stres­sors – fi­nances, health, re­la­tion­ships, work – and tap into that re­lax­ation re­sponse,” says Suzanne Zilkowsky, owner of Van­cou­ver Health Coach, a com­pany that coaches clients on health, fit­ness and stress man­age­ment. “We don’t worry about time­lines, we prob­a­bly get more sleep, and we nour­ish our­selves bet­ter. Ob­vi­ously, our stress is min­i­mized.”

It’s a phe­nom­e­non that’s backed by re­search: Stud­ies have found that va­ca­tions help re­lieve work-re­lated stress and pro­vide ben­e­fits for rest and re­cu­per­a­tion, health and well-be­ing and per­sonal growth.

The trick, of course, is to cap­ture that hol­i­day feel­ing – bot­tling it like sand from a dis­tant beach – and bring back the great sleeps, mind­ful meals, fresh air, ex­er­cise and restora­tive prac­tices that are the hall­marks of time away. For­tu­nately, it’s not as hard as you might think. Here are seven tips for achiev­ing stress-re­duced liv­ing, one for each day of the week.


Sleep is vi­tal to brain func­tion. Not only does a good night’s slum­ber im­prove learn­ing but stud­ies also show that not spend­ing enough time be­tween the sheets can have a neg­a­tive im­pact on your daily life. Peo­ple who are sleep de­prived have a harder time con­trol­ling their emo­tions, mak­ing de­ci­sions, pay­ing at­ten­tion and man­ag­ing stress.

“When you’re tired, you tend to cope poorly, eat worse and have bad habits [such as caf­feine con­sump­tion] that re­in­force poor sleep,” says Dr. Atul Khullar, med­i­cal di­rec­tor of the North­ern Al­berta Sleep Clinic and se­nior con­sul­tant for MedSleep, a na­tion­wide net­work of clin­ics that treats sleep dis­or­ders. “If you’re sleep­ing bet­ter on va­ca­tion, you should re­ally ex­am­ine your sleep habits in your own bed­room.”

Dr. Khullar says that the most im­por­tant thing is to not bring any prob­lems to bed, which is what hap­pens if you have your phone, com­puter or tele­vi­sion in the bed­room. It also helps to re­move the clock (or an­gle it) so you can’t watch it and make sure that the room is dark and cool. Fi­nally, you should aim for at least seven to eight hours of sleep each night. If you’re fall­ing short, start by go­ing to bed 10 to 15 min­utes ear­lier. “Added up over a week, it can make a big dif­fer­ence,” he says.


Ex­er­cise is one of the best and most ef­fec­tive ways to lower stress, and it’s in­ex­pen­sive and healthy for you. On hol­i­day, you do it with­out even think­ing about it by walk­ing around a new city. At home, you should build it into your day.

“Even mod­er­ate-in­ten­sity ac­tiv­ity, such as go­ing for a brisk walk, re­leases ‘happy hor­mones’ like ep­i­neph­rine, adren­a­line and sero­tonin, which im­prove your mood and in­crease your en­ergy,” says Zilkowsky. “It also low­ers all of the symp­toms as­so­ci­ated with mild de­pres­sion and anx­i­ety.”

Start with 15 min­utes of daily ex­er­cise, which is enough time to in­crease your heart rate and be­gin to reap the ben­e­fits. Cy­cle to work, do a mini-yoga ses­sion or dust off the tread­mill in your base­ment and walk while you watch TV. “It doesn’t have to be a long marathon run or CrossFit ses­sion,” says Zilkowsky.

As well, she rec­om­mends build­ing reg­u­lar move­ment breaks into your work­day, where you get up from the com­puter to get a drink of water or stretch. “It in­creases pro­duc­tiv­ity and helps you stay fo­cused,” says Zilkowsky. Set a no­ti­fi­ca­tion re­minder to help you re­mem­ber.


On va­ca­tion, we en­joy long drawnout restau­rant meals with loved ones; in real life, we scarf down


pro­cessed foods in the car on the way to hockey prac­tice. It’s a fact that stress leads to poor food choices, says An­drea Hol­weg­ner, a reg­is­tered di­eti­tian and owner of Health Stand Nu­tri­tion Con­sult­ing in Cal­gary. “We have re­ally good re­search to sup­port that fam­i­lies that eat to­gether have less anx­i­ety, less de­pres­sion and a re­duced risk of obe­sity,” she says. “They score higher on tests aca­dem­i­cally, all be­cause they’re sim­ply eat­ing to­gether.”

Hol­weg­ner rec­om­mends that fam­i­lies eat at least one meal a day to­gether to con­nect and eat healthy (no tech­nol­ogy al­lowed). If din­ner isn’t ideal be­cause of work com­mit­ments or kids’ ac­tiv­i­ties, let break­fast be the backup. To make meal planning less oner­ous, ask the ques­tion “What’s for sup­per?” the day be­fore and take some­thing out of the freezer so you won’t have any ex­cuses.


You know that mo­ment when you lie back on your beach towel, toes in the pow­dery sand, trop­i­cal sun on your face, and lit­er­ally sigh? That’s called the “ahh feel­ing,” and it’s im­por­tant to make time for it daily to un­plug, calm your mind and body and take a break from the world, says Zilkowsky.

“There are so many ways you can get that feel­ing, and it doesn’t mean you have to go to the spa,” she says. It could be quiet time with a good book, breath­ing ex­er­cises or med­i­ta­tion, which is gain­ing more fans as a method to man­age stress.

“A restora­tive prac­tice can be any­thing that makes you feel bet­ter,” says Martin Antony, a pro­fes­sor of psy­chol­ogy at Ry­er­son Univer­sity and au­thor of The Anti-Anx­i­ety Work­book. “For some, it may be a hot bath or mas­sage; for oth­ers, it’s get­ting so­cial sup­port.” Carve out space for your “ahh” time and sched­ule it into your day or week un­til it be­comes a habit.


It’s tempt­ing to be a yes woman, as­sign­ing your­self to school fundrais­ers and vol­un­teer com­mit­tees even though you don’t have the time. That’s the beauty of va­ca­tions: We only say yes to things we want to do. Zi­plin­ing? Heck, yeah! Hula lessons? Not so much.

“Most peo­ple say yes to ev­ery­thing, and then they start get­ting stressed out and have to back­track,” says Hol­weg­ner, who also coaches clients on work­place well­ness and stress man­age­ment. “We see so many overex­tended peo­ple. Peo­ple have to be very in­ten­tional about what their pri­or­i­ties are in life and cre­ate bound­aries around what’s re­ally mean­ing­ful.”

If you’re un­com­fort­able say­ing no to a re­quest right away, ask for time to think about it. If it’s your boss ask­ing and you re­ally can’t say no, make sure to clar­ify what items can slide down the pri­or­ity list to make time for the new project.


Part of what makes a va­ca­tion so ex­cit­ing is the novelty of a new place. You eat at trendy restau­rants, sign up for bi­cy­cle tours and try ac­tiv­i­ties like surf­ing. In short, you do things that bring you joy and let you dis­cover a des­ti­na­tion.

The good news is, it’s easy to be a tourist in your own town, es­pe­cially on week­ends. Make a point of check­ing out that hot new jazz bar or sign­ing up for a food or brew­ery tour. Try a new hike or visit a mu­seum.

“Day in and day out, we get up, go to work, come home and turn on the TV while we’re do­ing chores,” says Zilkowsky. “We’re in a rut. A lot of that stuff emp­ties our cup. So how do we fill it back up?” In other words, what will make you feel alive, right here, right now? Go and do it.


Giv­ing thanks is good for you: It breeds op­ti­mism, boosts im­mu­nity and helps peo­ple cope with stress. Ev­ery day on vacay is a lit­tle shoutout – we feel so for­tu­nate and lucky to be spend­ing time with friends, loved ones or even alone. It’s much harder to prac­tise grat­i­tude back at home while liv­ing the daily grind, but it’s tremen­dously im­por­tant.

“Find grat­i­tude in small, ev­ery­day mo­ments,” says Lisa Jones, owner of Spark for Life Coach­ing in Cal­gary. “Put your head down at the end of the day – even if you’re just grate­ful for sur­viv­ing the day! That can re­ally im­prove your mood, your hap­pi­ness and your sense of ful­fill­ment.”

When we be­come con­sciously aware of all we have to be thank­ful for, whether by writ­ing it down in a jour­nal or just mak­ing a men­tal note of it, it puts the lit­tle ag­gra­va­tions into per­spec­tive.

Time with a good book is an easy way to get that vacay feel­ing back.

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