by Laura Belus, ND – Elevate Wellness Retreats
With the speed at which our society moves these days, a weekend away can be hard to come by, but could it be worth it in more ways than one? Getting out of your normal routine, unplugging, and reconnecting with your loved ones can have a profound impact on your health!
In our current culture, a weekend away may seem like an indulgence, but if you’re someone who has a stressful day-to-day life (who doesn’t?), it might be essential.
When you’re stressed, you release the hormone cortisol. Cortisol puts you into the “fight or flight” mode, which sounds primitive – because it is. Our bodies are triggered to release cortisol when the brain interprets “stress”. When evolution constructed this pathway, “stress” was something that put you in immediate danger – such as a bear chasing you. Today, “stress” can be anything from a big meeting, a traffic jam, or running late for work. These events aren’t as serious as a bear chasing you, but your body perceives it the same way and responds by releasing an array of hormones, including cortisol.
Cortisol suppresses digestion, immunity, and reproductive hormones (non-essentials during a stressful moment), and enhances cognitive function and muscular activity. This is why chronic stress can cause digestive problems, frequent infections, and hormonal irregularities. If you are under stress for a prolonged time, your cortisol levels can be consistently high, which can lead to elevated blood sugar, and fat accumulation around the midsection. It can also lead to exhaustion of your adrenal glands (which are responsible for making the cortisol), leading to a range of symptoms such as moodiness, fatigue, anxiety, depression, and high blood pressure. Reducing your stress is critical to lowering your cortisol levels and maintaining optimal health. Here’s where a weekend away can help you deal with your daily stressors!
Not only is a weekend away relaxing, taking a break from daily stressors can have a profound positive impact on your cortisol levels, improving your mental and physical health. Getting out of your daily routine can provide you with a fresh perspective and give you clarity on any decisions you may be facing. A change of scenery, especially when that scenery is nature, is a great investment in self-care. It has even been found that spending time in nature by engaging in activities such as gardening can lower cortisol levels and reduce depression symptoms. When you take time to relax, you are actively improving your overall health by changing your stress hormone levels.
Going on vacation with loved ones is also a great opportunity to spend quality time together and allow yourself to refocus on what’s important. Going away with loved ones, such a romantic partner, can also help you and your partner learn how to support each other as you prioritize your health goals.
Regions of your brain actually undergo physical changes in response to chronic stress which are reversible if the stress lasts weeks, but it’s unclear whether these changes can be reversed if it lasts months or years. Taking a weekend off to destress is starting to sound crucial isn’t it? It’s a great balance to working hard Monday through Friday. You may even find that you return to work with more positive energy than when you left, feeling refreshed and ready to be productive. Go ahead and book a weekend getaway – it’s not an indulgence if it’s good for your health!
If you’re looking for a weekend getaway that includes your partner, why not join Elevate Wellness Retreats this September 27-29, 2019 at Viamede Resort to learn how to boost the health of yourself and your relationship. Learn more by visiting www.elevatewellnessretreat.com.
- Detweiler, M.B, Self, J. A., Lane, S., Spencer, L., Lutgens, B., Kim, D. Y., . . . Lehmann, L. P. (2015). Horticultural therapy: a pilot study on modulating cortisol levels and indices of substance craving, posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, and quality of life in veterans.
- McEwen, B. S. (2008). Central effects of stress hormones in health and disease: understanding the protective and damaging effects of stress and stress mediators. European Journal of Pharmacology, 583(2-3): 174-185.