Summer vacation is supposed to be about rest and relaxation, but when you’re used to always being “on,” trying to enjoy your free time can be stressful! Dr. Robert Glatter, otherwise known as “Dr. 911” and the on-set doctor for Gossip Girl and other shows and movies, gave us some helpful tips for making the most of your summer vacays. His advice will help you enjoy your time off, stress-free!
1. Keep to routines
Even though you may be on vacation, setting up routines may actually help to provide some structure to avoid feeling stressed. For example, if sleeping late makes you feel like you are wasting your day, then setting up a routine schedule to wake up and go to sleep at specific times may allow you to feel less stress when scheduling vacation activities.
2. Breath deeply
Focusing on breathing is an important way to relieve your mind of its many distractions. Slow, deep abdominal breathing for just 5-10 minutes can help to lower your blood pressure, heart rate, and clear your mind. This is can be accomplished by focusing on nothing else but your breathing, listening to and feeling the air rush in and out of your lungs.
3. Think positive
Making a conscious effort to focus on positive thoughts, whether it’s a relationship, object or idea can help to make your vacation time more satisfying. Focus to help reduce racing and intrusive thoughts. By focusing on a particular mantra, your mind can isolate and concentrate on a single object thought or task and block out outside pressures and stressors.
4. Compartmentalize Stress Provokers
Being able to effectively deal with your anxiety starts with identifying stressors, and learning to compartmentalize them. Simply realizing that there are some stressful things and situations that you cannot control will help you to actually let go of some of your stress.
5. Schedule time to check emails and perform work-related activities
In an age of constant connectivity with laptops, tablets and smart phones, it’s important to reserve time each day to check and respond to emails. It’s important to let people know you are away, and will only be checking messages a few times during the day. Unless an emergency develops, resist the urge to respond throughout the day to these messages. Knowing that your day isn’t focused on email or social media, should allow you to more effectively spend time with your friends and family.
6. Relax by engaging in physical activities
Engaging in activities that are both physically and mentally challenging may be more effective in helping you to truly relax your mind and let go of stress. For example, reading a book on a beach may be relaxing to some people. Activities that are more physically and mentally challenging may help to achieve more meaningful levels of relaxation on a vacation.
7. Practice aromatherapy
Having summery scents available in the form of lotions, gels, infusers or candles may help make your summer vacation more pleasant and relaxing. Citrus-based scents as well as flowery-based sprays, oils, or candles can help make you feel more relaxed and calm amidst busy days activities.
|Dr. Robert Glatter, a graduate of Emory University School of Medicine, completed his training in Emergency Medicine at SUNY Downstate/Kings County Hospital in 2001. Prior to that, he spent three years training in General Surgery. Dr. Glatter is a member of the American Academy of Emergency Medicine (AAEM) and currently serves as an Editor for an educational website for emergency physicians, Medscape, a WebMD affiliate. He takes interest in Sports Medicine and sports-related injury, and has served as a sideline physician in the NFL for the New York Jets since 2004.
Dr. Glatter is Board Certified in Emergency Medicine, is affiliated with both Lenox Hill and Southampton Hospitals, and is quickly able to assess or triage any medical or surgical problem in adult and pediatric patients, making appropriate arrangements should an ailment require more emergent treatment and care.
Photo courtesy of Mark C. Smith
It’s very challenging for most people to stay on the healthy eating track when vacationing. As the author of Clean Plates Manhattan 2011, a healthy and sustainable eating restaurant guide, I often encounter the question, “What should I do if I am not at a ‘Clean Plates-approved’ restaurant?”
Clean Plates guidelines are a great set of tools to aid in choosing a restaurant, but as we all know, it’s not always possible to dine in an ideal setting. Your best tool is to be prepared: prior to leaving for your destination become familiar with restaurants in the area that serve high quality and delicious food. Travel guides and the internet are great resources for finding such establishments.
However, life isn’t perfect, and the best-laid plans occasionally fail. No matter how prepared and mindful you are, you may sometimes end up at a restaurant that doesn’t offer the best food options in terms of health and sustainability. So what do you do when the situation arises?
Try to avoid meat if you can. If you eat animal products, choose grass-fed, pasture-raised animals over ones conventionally raised with antibiotics and growth hormones. If you are unsure about how the restaurant’s meats were raised, ask your server — restaurants that serve organic meat products are often happy to tell you about their sources (if your server is unsure or vague, it’s a safe bet that the meats are conventionally raised and should be avoided). If you do decide to order the conventional steak or chicken, balance it with lots of veggies, especially delicious green leafy ones like kale and spinach that are packed with antioxidants to help counteract some of the potential harmful effects of farm-raised meat. Your body – and the planet – will thank you.
Be Creative. Many restaurants will gladly accommodate special requests and guests with dietary restrictions – no need to be shy or feel uncomfortable. Look for dishes that feature beans (your protein), a whole grain (think brown rice or quinoa) and/or veggies. You can even ask if they would add any of these components to another existing dish to create an appropriate entrée. Many delicious appetizers, salads, or side dishes can also be made into entrée-sized portions or even combined to make up a meal with tasty variety.
A cozy pasta dish (preferably cooked al dente to limit the spike in blood sugar levels) with a salad and side of veggies often makes for a great and satisfying meal. Since most restaurants use a lot of refined salt and sugar in their sauces (not to mention poor quality oils), it is always wise to ask the chef to go light on the sauce – you could even ask for it on the side so you control how much of it you use.
Most importantly, don’t stress. Follow the 80/20 rule. Simply put, if you eat well a significant majority of the time (think high quality whole foods), your body will be better equipped to process less healthy foods once in a while. And most importantly, whatever you do decide to eat, enjoy it and then forget about it. Stress and guilt about what you eat is a lot more detrimental to your health than an occasional piece of pie.
Jared Koch, Founder of Clean Plates, graduated from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition with certification by Columbia University, Teachers College in 2005 and graduated from the Global Institute for Alternative Medicine in 2004. He is a health coach, nutritional consultant, and certified yoga instructor with expertise in meditation, and he speaks frequently on the topic of nutrition and has spoken at such organizations as Google, Sony, Merrill Lynch, Bank of America, MTV, and Time Warner.
Jared graduated from the University of Michigan where he completed a pre-medical program while majoring in economics. With an entrepreneurial spirit, he delayed enrollment in Albert Einstein Medical School to launch an entertainment company with his brother. The company grossed $10 million in annual sales within ten years. Despite corporate success, Jared still felt a strong need to attend to the wellness of others. Upon selling his stake in the entertainment business, he began ten years of wellness study with the likes of Dr. Andrew Weil, Deepak Chopra, raw food guru David Wolfe, and Walter Willett, Chair of Harvard’s Department of Nutrition.
Image Credit: myworkoutspay.com
There are always a million things to remember when traveling, but you shouldn’t have to give packing a second thought! Our favorite travel accessories are designed to take the stress out of your pre-vacation routine. These chic and compact picks are great for any getaway – no matter if you’re a day-tripper or globetrotter.
The first step toward a hassle-free journey is staying organized. To keep all your accessories in place, there’s PURSEN’s Handbag Organizers & Travel Jewelry Case. This all-in-one multi-tasker comes equipped with clear plastic pockets of varying sizes and removable pouches, ideal for keeping jewelry separate and untangled. The handbag inserts are another unique feature we love. Plan your look in advance, then pack your purse next to its matching jewelry for easy accessibility.
Buy Now, PURSEN’s Handbag Organizer & Travel Jewelry Case, $48
For your practical must-haves, this Clear Zip Case from Flight 001 is both chic and carry-on friendly. All airline regulated-sized toiletries can be comfortably stashed inside the vinyl (and water-resistant!) pouch. Philip Kingsley’s Jet Set packs are the cure for the common hotel shampoo and conditioner. The carrying case includes cute containers of shampoo, conditioner, and three “Elasticizer” sachets for hair types ranging from the chemically processed to porous, tight curls. It has a slightly masculine smell so it’s great for the guys too!
Buy Now, Clear Zip Case from Flight 001, $8
Buy Now, Jet Sets, $36.29
For the rest of your portable needs, there’re Henri Bendel’s stylish three-set pockets. The Go Anywhere Travel Set compartmentalizes hair accessories (the pouch is large enough for a travel blow dryer, like this dual-voltage fierce cheetah print from Sephora), entertainment gadgets (including iPod and MP3 players), and jewelry in separate, attached sacks. Practical and pretty – we love it for its retro stripe design and cartoon detailing!
Buy Now, Go Anywhere Travel Set, $38
Buy Now, Dual-Voltage Fierce Cheetah Print, $39
Speaking of a well-detailed accessory, Lily Juliet’s Red Stiletto Shoe Bag is both lovely and functional. Lined inside as well as embroidered without, tuck away your heels without fear of damage. The cotton two-in-one folds in half for easy packing, an important detail for any traveler that also holds true for this Wash Me, Wear Me bag. Separate your dirty underthings from your clean ones by stowing them in the appropriate pocket. We recommend stashing both inside a Samsonite 20” Trolley, which comes in an array of colors from deep black to ultra-bright blue, a fun fact that makes baggage claim a piece of (raspberry-colored) cake.
Buy Now, Red Stiletto Shoe Bag, $20
Buy Now, Wash Me Wear Me Bag
Buy Now, Samsonite 20” Trolley, $165
Still looking for a little something to make your luggage stand out from the pack? Tepper Jackson is a fashionable line that makes luggage tags styled with bright colors, prints, and catchy phrases. We like the aqua-navy contrast of its Jet Set piece, but would be more than willing to embellish our bags with any one of the funky-cute options.
Buy Now, Jet Set, $36.29
The whole point of an outing is, of course, to relax and pack in the fun. With that in mind, don’t forget to pack your iPod speaker for that perfect poolside playlist. iHome makes a great Rechargeable Mini Speaker that can be neatly stashed away beside your other travel treats.
Buy Now, Rechargeable Mini Speaker, $19.99
Ask Melissa: I still have not made vacation plans for the summer but would like to take my family somewhere in Europe. What do you recommend?
One of my favorite places to travel in Europe over the summer is Greece. I had my first taste of Greece and its incredible beauty while backpacking as a college graduate through Athens, Corfu, and Crete. Last summer, my family and I were graciously invited by our Greek friends to explore Athens and a few of the most breathtaking Cyclades islands in the world… Sifnos and Santorini.
We liked the modern Arion Resort & Spa hotel, which is 15 minutes from the airport, located in the Athens Riviera, and about 20 minutes from town. The hotel is one of three gorgeous Starwood Hotels and Resorts properties located in the same area. There are a few nice shops there, including one that sells designer bathing suits for women and men. Our spacious connecting rooms had incredible beach views. Although I did not get a chance to try out the services, the spa and gym also looked incredible.
Sightseeing: Our friends arranged a private tour for us with Helen (Elena in Greek) Soulioti, a member of the License Tourist Guides’ Union, a fantastic organization with over 1,000 multilingual members working throughout Greece.
The van picked us up after lunch and we headed out to the new Acropolis Museum (which cost $200 million to build, headed by NY architect Bernard Tschumi), and sits near the base of the Acropolis with a direct view of the Parthenon. We then walked up to reach the Parthenon, whose views of Athens and the surrounding temples below are magnificent. I recommend going at 6:00 p.m. when the sun is not as strong – it’s perfect after a day at the beach. Also, be sure to pack VERY comfortable walking shoes or flat sandals with straps, like a pair of K.Jacques. You will be walking on rocky ground and lots of stairs! The next day, we went to the Temple of Poseiden’s to watch the sunset. Our tour guide Helen told us so many interesting stories and myths along the way about Greek gods and goddesses. We also visited the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the Parliament House, Olympic Stadium, and the Presidential Mansion.
Dining: At the hotel, we enjoyed lunch right on the beach at Taverna 37, a casual Greek tavern with the best Greek salad and fresh grilled fish. This outdoor restaurant is set into the rocks of the hotel beach area with great views from every table. For a more formal lunch, try ITHAKI, one of the best restaurants in Athens. We indulged in a variety of Greek specialties, as well as grilled calamari, prawns, lobster, branzini, and a variety of salads and dips. For dinner, I recommend trying Matsuhisa Athens, owned by Chef Nobu Matsuhisa and perched on top of a rock in the Astir Palace Resort with amazing views of the Saronic Gulf. The quality of the Japanese food here is beyond delicious. My children loved it so much – except they did have to get used to “Greek time” for dinner at 10:00 p.m.!
After two days in Athens, we took the high-speed hydrofoil to the magical island of Sifnos. The trip from the port of Piraeus took about 2.5 hours – there is a first-class lounge that serves good food and great coffee! This island is a hidden gem, and not well known to American visitors, although I heard that Rita Wilson and Tom Hanks have a place there. We stayed with friends on the beach, but also checked out a nearby hotel that was a hidden paradise, the Elies Resort. The contemporary resort is located on the beach, has a gorgeous infinity pool, and great food. I soon learned that Sifnos is known for some of the best food in the Cyclades, as well as its pottery. An interesting fact… there are over 365 churches on Sifnos and our host, who is an extraordinary photographer, Marina, who plans to photograph every one of them.
Sites, dining, and shopping: One day we took a boat trip to another small island called Kimolos, toured the nearby island Milos, and had lunch on the beach. Our lunch consisted of a variety of Greek appetizers and salads, shrimp, mussels, and the best branzini I have ever tasted. A beautiful butterfly landed on my hand during our visit there! At night we went to the town of Apollonia for dinner at Odos Oneiron (Avenue of Dreams). The food was delicious and a must if you are in town. We also walked around and shopped in some great local boutiques. Another night we went to the historic village of Kastro, a beautiful and fascinating medieval-style village that sits on top of a giant rock-hill with panoramic views of the sea. We walked down lots of steps to a local fresh-fish restaurant and had dinner within a magical setting at the edge of the sea. The children had a blast as the water crashed against the rocks with sea spray flying in front of us. Sifnos is not touristy and is truly a best-kept secret!
This unique Cyclades island is what remains of an enormous volcanic explosion that occured around 1660 B.C. and that formed the Caldera, a cauldron-like underwater volcanic structure that was created after the enormous blast. We stayed at the beautiful Mystique Hotel, another Starwood Hotels and Resorts where there are 18 gorgeous suites and villas built within the famous cliffs of Oia. The restaurant serves eclectic food made with local ingredients and overlooks the infinity pool and the sea. The hotel offers a wine tasting with rare and indigenous wines in its secret wine cave. I preferred the fresh-squeezed watermelon juice since I am not much of a drinker. Mystique is a perfect place to celebrate a special occasion or honeymoon. There are a lot of rocky steps here, so it’s good to be in shape and wear comfortable shoes. Also, this property is not ideal if you are travelling with small children.
Sites, dining, and shopping: We were informed by our Greek friends about an amazing catamaran ride in Santorini to its nearby islands, operated by a company called Santorini Sailing. The trips are run by Ted and Dina Stathis, a couple who started these cruises out of their love for sharing the beauty of the island. They offer private, semi-private, and public tours. You can choose whether you want to do a lunch, dinner, full-day, or overnight tour. Meal options include a steak and seafood barbecue (their signature dishes have been featured on the Food Network). The cruise includes sailing past the Red and White beaches, the hot springs where you stop for a swim, and the volcano. They also stop in private bays for snorkeling. The next evening, we enjoyed walking around the quaint town of Oia, filled with cafés, shops, and places of interest. A few of our favorite restaurants are 1800, and Nectar and Ambrosia.
I plan to return to Greece soon and check out some other islands such as Mykonos, Crete, and to visit some other lesser-known towns, such as Kastoria. My grandparents are from this small town located on a lake north of Athens where it is known for its beautiful furs. I highly recommend this trip to Greece and can’t wait to go back!
Although you may look like a tourist holding this guidebook, the Lonely Planet series is your ticket to the best hotspots and hidden gems for cities, countries and regions around the world. Lonely Planet was my bible when traveling in Europe and Barcelona, because for just a few bucks I felt like I had an insider’s guide to an authentic trip or just the perfect vacation. Each guide comes with comprehensive maps, history of the places, and suggestions for accommodations, transportation, and restaurants. For the spend-conscious traveler, the Lonely Planet “…on a Shoestring travel guide” series, covers locations around the globe, but with advice on where to eat cheap, sleep soundly, and uncover your destination comfortably, without breaking the bank. The Lonely Planet guidebook (paired with lonelyplanet.com) can make you feel like a local even if you only plan on staying for a few days. – Courtney Bannerot