This week I was ecstatic to receive my first guest from the UK here in Molunat.
I’d been keeping a check on the news all week for travel updates, when I came across a feature in the British press, asking the question whether it was worth the stress to travel at the moment.
Having an active interest in stress and how it affects us, I thought it was a good opportunity for a bit of research.
Like many people, my friend had found lockdown in the UK pretty challenging, and living alone was a particularly isolating affair, taking its toll on both physical and mental wellbeing. The general feeling in the UK was one of fear, and my friend even recalled people jumping into hedges to avoid any contact as passing others in the street.
Just a few days into the “polako” (which means “slowly” in Croatian) lifestyle in Molunat, he was transformed. A combination of Vitamin D, Vitamin Sea, and back to basics living, with plenty of space and air turned out to be just the remedy. People were adhering to the rules, but there was no big drama about it.
“It felt free and other-worldly”, he told me, “like going back in time”.
Worth the risk? Absolutely.
But there’s more.
It’s not just a case of feeling better, these factors above, which we tend to make the most of whilst on holiday, are all powerful immunity-boosters.
Stress, on the flip side, can have a hugely negative impact on our immune system, and I think everyone would agree that these times have been stressful. For some more than others, of course.
Recent American research during the lockdown showed a stress increase of 88% in the period from 16 February to 15 March 2020, and as many as 69% of those surveyed experience the coronary pandemic as the most stressful period of their lives.
In the UK, stress levels were also at an all-time high. Brexit was bad enough, then this came along, and the Government’s message was on one hand utterly confusing, and on the other hand, telling everyone to “stay alert”.
It was an interesting use of word, as “alert” is the state the body goes into when it is stressed, in “fight or flight” mode, so it was essentially instructing everyone to stay in a state of stress. Not that useful for fighting a virus.
In contrast, a country who managed the crisis relatively well, and achieved positive recovery rates was Germany, who had Professor Christian Drosten, as their high-profile expert offering educational podcasts twice weekly. As the Head of the German Public Health Institute’s reference lab on coronaviruses, he was a reassuring voice of authority and clarity.
He has been likened to Stephen Hawkings in that: “Many people may not understand everything he says. But it is comforting to listen to someone explaining what is going on.”
Now I don’t have the scientific background of Drosten or Hawkins, but what I have learned is this -
The body, in particular the immune system, is well-equipped to deal with short-term stress, that is stress that lasts for minutes or hours (as with exercise). In fact, it has been shown to strengthen our immune system to expose ourselves to short bursts of stress. Like getting on a plane, for instance!
Prolonged stress, however, that which lasts for two to three weeks or longer, can seriously damage health. The internal ecosystem is out of balance; inflammation develops, and the body enters a self-enforcing pathological immune response.
When it has gone into this phase, the system needs re-setting. We need to get out of our stressed “fight-or-flight_ mode, and back into “rest and digest”, a state of relaxation.
We need exactly what we do on holiday – more sleep, more rest, taking time over our food, switching off our devices, and letting nature bring us back into balance. Then we do all those things that help boost our immunity – we get plenty natural sunlight, we move more, we nourish ourselves well, get outdoors, and we remember what life looked like before all the stress.
Asking an online community yesterday, who had travelled to Croatia since Co-VID, whether they had felt safe, out of the 40 people who answered, there was a 100% “yes!”.
Many said they felt safer here than at home, as was the case with my friend, and which is exactly why I am in no hurry to return to the UK.
So is it worth the stress of travelling to Croatia at the moment?
Gillie Sutherland grew up in the north of England, before settling in Devon, but has now swapped her UK address for one on the Adriatic in the very south of Croatia, in Molunat. A professional yoga trainer she now runs retreats and online courses from her Konavle base. She also writes a weekly column for the Devon newspaper, The Express and Echo. Keep in touch with Gillie via her yoga website - www.yogamolunat.life
For more information on healing holidays in Croatia visit www.lovemolunat.com