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Will Vacation Help My Trauma Symptoms?

Taking a vacation can significantly help in managing stress and trauma responses. Here’s a detailed look at how, supported by research:

Physical and Mental Break

Stepping away from the environments and routines that contribute to your stress can provide much-needed relief. Research shows that this break can significantly reduce stress levels and improve overall well-being. This is because vacations remove you from the immediate sources of stress, allowing your mind and body to relax and recuperate.

Exposure to New Environments

Traveling to new places introduces you to different cultures, landscapes, and experiences. This exposure can distract from negative thoughts and feelings associated with trauma and stimulate positive emotions and curiosity. Studies have found that such novel experiences can enhance mood and decrease symptoms of anxiety and depression, which are often linked with trauma.

Relaxation and Rest

Many vacation activities, such as spa treatments, nature walks, or simply having the freedom to sleep in, are designed to promote relaxation. The American Psychological Association highlights that vacations can reduce stress by removing individuals from activities and environments associated with stress and anxiety. This relaxation helps lower the body's heightened stress response, which is often present in trauma sufferers.

Quality Time with Loved Ones

Spending uninterrupted time with family and friends during a vacation can strengthen relationships and provide emotional support. Research indicates that strong social support networks are crucial for emotional resilience and recovery from trauma. Positive social interactions can provide a sense of safety, belonging, and emotional nourishment.

Opportunity for Reflection

Being away from daily routines and stressors gives you the time and space needed for introspection and reflection. Studies suggest that these periods of relaxation and distance allow for better emotional processing and reflection, aiding in trauma recovery. This time can help you process your thoughts and emotions in a new, supportive setting.

Engagement in Enjoyable Activities

Engaging in activities that bring joy and pleasure, such as hiking, swimming, exploring new cultures, or indulging in favourite hobbies, can improve mood and foster a sense of accomplishment and happiness. Research shows that positive activities can reduce symptoms of PTSD and depression, contributing to better mental health.

Reduced Stress Hormones

Vacations have been shown to lower levels of cortisol, the body’s primary stress hormone. Lower cortisol levels are associated with improved mental health and a reduced risk of physical health issues related to stress. This hormonal change can lead to a more relaxed and balanced state, aiding in trauma recovery.

Enhanced Creativity and Problem-Solving

A change of scenery and routine can boost creativity and enhance problem-solving skills. Many studies link new environments to increased creativity and better problem-solving abilities. This can be particularly beneficial for those dealing with trauma, as it might help them find new ways to cope with their feelings and experiences.

Mindfulness and Presence

Vacations encourage mindfulness and being present in the moment, whether through new experiences or simply the act of relaxing. Mindfulness practices are known to be effective in managing symptoms of trauma and improving overall well-being. Studies have shown that mindfulness can reduce PTSD symptoms and promote mental health.

Improved Sleep

Many people find that they sleep better when on vacation due to the reduction in stress and the increase in relaxation activities. Improved sleep quality is crucial for mental health and can aid in the recovery from trauma. Research indicates that better sleep helps in reducing symptoms of PTSD and improving overall emotional stability.

While vacations offer significant benefits, they should complement professional treatment, not replace it. Therapy and professional support remain essential for effectively dealing with trauma. Vacations can be a valuable part of a holistic approach to recovery, providing rest and rejuvenation that supports ongoing therapeutic efforts.


1. American Psychological Association. Emphasizes the importance of vacations for physical and mental health.

2. Holmes EA, Mathews A. (2010). Mental imagery in emotion and emotional disorders. Clin Psychol Rev. 30(3), 349-62. doi: 10.1016/j.cpr.2010.01.001.

3. Etzion, D. (2003). Annual Vacation: Duration of Relief from Job Stressors and Burnout. Anxiety, Stress, and Coping, 16, 213-226.

4. Ozbay et al. (2007). Social support and resilience to stress: from neurobiology to clinical practice. Psychiatry (Edgmont). 4(5), 35-40.

5. Bryant, R. (2003). Bryant RA. Early predictors of posttraumatic stress disorder. Biol. Psychiatry 53: 789-795. Biological psychiatry. 53. 789-95. 10.1016/S0006-3223(02)01895-4.

6. Joudrey, A. D., & Wallace, J. E. (2009). Leisure as a coping resource: A test of the job demand-control-support model. Human Relations, 62(2), 195–217.

7. Maddux, W. W., & Galinsky, A. D. (2009). Cultural borders and mental barriers: The relationship between living abroad and creativity. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 96(5), 1047–1061.

8. Bryant, R. et al. (2010). Sleep disturbance immediately prior to trauma predicts subsequent psychiatric disorder, Sleep, 33 (1), 69–74,

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