Skipping town to truly disconnect might be one of the best things you can do for your body, your brain, and yes, your job.
Several studies have demonstrated how overall performance increases significantly after taking a break—of any duration. We accept this concept when it comes to physical stuff, easily skipping a workout for a rest day, or declining a night of partying for TV and take-out instead.
But when does your mind ever get a break?
And let’s be honest, is a few hours of Netflix and Seamless with wine enough of a break…even for your body?
Many of our patients at Parsley have symptoms from their modern lifestyle. Abdominal weight gain, high blood pressure, joint pain, high blood sugar and insomnia are often the neurohormonal repercussions of chronic stress.
The only way to effectively lower chronic stress is to actively recharge by stepping out—completely—of your modern stressful lifestyle.
Stress is, in fact, pro-aging. People who take fewer vacations are more likely to have a heart attack or die of heart disease compared to those who take regular vacations (two or more annually), according to an analysis of the Framingham Heart Study (1), which followed women for two decades and found that the frequency of vacations was a strong predictor of future heart attacks and coronary death.
Has your weight ever stabilized or dropped on vacation, even though you’re eating whatever you want and not working out? This surprises many people, but at Parsley we get the science behind it. Forcing “self-control” for daily workouts and restrictive eating is stressful, exhausting, and elicits the sympathetic (fight-or-flight) nervous response, which disrupts your metabolism .
A study at the University of Pittsburgh, of nearly 1,400 people, showed that those who spent the most downtime had a lower body mass index and waist circumference (2)—two key predictors of overall health.
Parsley Founder Dr. Robin Berzin recently told Forbes that, “Truly disconnecting on vacation is one of the most important things you can do for your health and overall wellbeing. Research on medical students showed that wounds healed more slowly in exam time than when they were on vacation—an example of how chronically elevated cortisol impairs the immune system .”
You read that right. Your body actually heals slower under stress, which interferes with its natural repair processes (3).
In How We Decide, author Jonah Lehrer says, “The human brain wasn’t designed to deal with such a surfeit of data. As a result, we are constantly exceeding the capacity of our prefrontal cortices, feeding them more facts and figures than they can handle. It’s like trying to run a new computer program on an old machine; the antique microchips try to keep up, but eventually they fizzle out.”
Give your brain a break. Do a back-up and shut down.
When you’re doing "nothing," your brain is actually doing very important work, like coming up with creative solutions to complex problems (4). The lost art of daydreaming born out of "boredom" has been filled with mindless scrolling on our smart devices and other empty events like the trivial pursuit of Pokemon.
Unfortunately, your five minutes of morning mind-wandering in the shower isn’t gonna be enough to solve the "99 problems" we all have.
Longer is better. Research out of Radboud University in the Netherlands showed that health and wellbeing outcomes increased quickly during vacation, but peaked on the eighth vacation day (5).
Summer ain’t over till the fat lady sings. Get your boredom on. Book that trip.
There is always time for downtime, if you make it.
Parsley Health is the doctor that helps you live healthier, longer, by treating the root cause of symptoms and conditions. Our medical teams—staffed by leading clinicians and health coaches—spend more time with you, order the right tests, and prescribe food, sleep and movement alongside medications so you can get better—and feel better.