Recently, a client came into my office saying that he needed a vacation. Mind you, he had just returned from a very relaxing vacation a few weeks earlier. However, all his rest and recuperation got depleted in a short amount of time after, leaving him just as exhausted and “stressed out” as he was before.

This seems to be a common theme among people I meet. We spend 50 weeks a year twisting ourselves up in knots, then expect a 2-week vacation to smooth everything out and make us happy for another year. This is very taxing on our bodies, our psyches, and our spirit, potentially showing up as high blood pressure, stress headaches, and depression. Since the remedy of annual five week paid vacations isn’t happening anytime soon, we need to bring the vacation directly to us. Here’s what I mean.

I have one beautiful image locked in my memory from a family trip to the ocean a couple years ago. I was lounging in the beach chair, with my (then) 1-year old sleeping peacefully on my chest. As I looked out toward the ocean, I saw my (then) 3-year old playing happily in the sand with my (still) beautiful wife. As I took in this moment, I noticed that I was breathing deeply and easily. My shoulders, my back, and neck were completely relaxed. And I felt a welling up of love for my family so deep that I almost cried. It was a perfect moment, when all was right with the universe. I summed up that perfect moment in one word: Peace.

One of the great things about words is that they create an image in our mind and our physical biology goes along with that image. When I say to you the word, “Hawaii”, instantly you think of palm trees, sun, white sandy beaches, and maybe even one of those fruit drinks with an umbrella in your hand. You don’t even have to have been to Hawaii (like me) to have these images. You are transported there. And in that same moment, whether you realize it or not, you physically change. The stress you felt before has shifted from a 10 down to a 9 or less (or maybe more, if you don’t like beaches, but you get my point). When we allow ourselves to remember a happy life event, or we allow ourselves to project happy thoughts, and we have those thoughts without regret, longing, guilt, whatever, then we are transformed from the stress to the peace. This does take practice, and at times you must be willing to be happy with “only” a shift from a 10 down to a 9, but you can bring your vacation home with you.

Now, any time I speak, hear, or even think the word “peace”, a part of me is instantly transported back to that scene at the beach. I take a deep breath, feel my shoulders relax, my eyebrows unfurrow, and I feel that same deep love.

I use this tool when I feel stressed out by life, or when I simply want to feel more calm and grounded. Sure, during those episodes of major upset a part of me would much rather be on the beach, actually enjoying a Mai Tai. And I’m learning to take that moment of “peace” over stress, and be happy with that shift from a 10 to a 9.

Then I can better go about life, feeling better and living better.