Updated: Feb 22
You thought I was going to give you some tips on how to reduce anxiety while away on a trip. Think again! This short article is about why a bit of stress, of the right kind, can be a GOOD thing for your health and well-being, and how you can use stress to your advantage while taking mini-vacations throughout your regular work-week.
There is an old saying that I just made up that goes something like: “You never get a day off from life.”
What I mean is, we have stress every day. We have things that we need to do, from eating, to driving, to being responsible for someone else if not ourselves. We always have SOME kind of stress. When we plan a vacation we may think sitting on a beach sounds good. Doing nothing. Having room service. But how long could you go that route without going crazy? Most of us need more stimulation. More challenge. Why? Why are people drawn to adventure vacations? Here’s my two cents.
Humans seem to enjoy when we can do something else, different, new. This is what vacation is all about. Go somewhere new. Try something new. But you have to admit that this is stressful. Our bodies are not adapted to the water skiing, the kayaking, the swimming, the snowboarding, the 15 hour flight… Our minds are not used to learning something totally new either. This is a type of stress, yet it renews and readies us to go back to our regular lives with appreciation, perspective, and calm.
The reason? I think it is all about the “zone”. Most people have been in this zone at some point. It is that time where you are totally focused, usually doing something you consider to be enjoyable. It may happen during a video game session, while fishing, or mountain biking, or skiing. Whatever it is that you are doing to focus your mind and body you have to admit, is stress. You are stressing your muscles while you move your body and stressing your mind while being attacked by aliens, anticipating catching that fish, while focusing to stay on trail, or avoiding that tree… It seems ironic that you would come back to your everyday existence relaxed.
Focusing on a task at hand and moving your body provides you with a vacation from multi-tasking, a vacation from the everyday. So you see, stress is not the enemy, the enemy is monotony
What got me thinking about this subject is Stand Up Paddleboarding. Why is it so fun for me, yet for some it is either too stressful, or too boring. Boredom may come from not being challenged due to lack of environmental stressors like waves, or too stressful due to fear of water, fear of falling, etc. There is a balance.
Many people love stand up paddling specifically because of the stressors it puts on the body; balance, strength, endurance, and the stressors it puts on the mind in order to focus constantly on balance with the whole body. It is much different than say, kayaking in this respect where you can let your mind wander more often and you are sitting down which takes less balance.
Surfers know the flow mind-state that is experienced while surfing a wave. The perpetual motion of the wave does not allow our mind or body to become stagnant or to stop and think about something mundane. You are in the moment. You have to be. There is danger involved. There is stress. There is also the calm that comes after a good session on the water.
So if you have ever felt “stressed-out” and in need of vacation you have probably also thought about how you can escape stress. Hopefully this article has addressed the truth that we don’t really escape stress, but that we can change it to be a tool for growth and yes, even relaxation.
Greg Weiss teaches stand up paddleboarding classes at Lost Creek Adventures