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4 ideas for nurse staycations in Georgia

To really enjoy a mini staycation, the first step is to quit thinking of it as a poor substitution for a "real" vacation. When you pause for a few days off and really try to make them special, you'll reap all sorts of health benefits.

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According to psychologist Emma Seppälä, science director at the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education at Stanford University, every time you fully disengage from your job for a few days, you'll feel better and work better afterwards. "Research suggests that leisure is an important predictor of our well-being and satisfaction with life, including our health, work engagement, creativity, and even marital satisfaction," she told Psychology Today. "Even a short weekend getaway can provide significant work-stress recovery."

And if you have that typical American work ethic that demands you must "earn" this beneficial break or it's no good, take note: "A new study shows that fun times are fun times no matter what, and we enjoy them just as much whether they come before or after hard work," Seppälä added. "The professional and personal benefits that we get from leisure time may help us succeed at our work goals."

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When you stay close to home, you'll save money on lodging and flights, and won't need to use precious time off to travel. Plus, the planning is minimal and you can postpone easily if something goes wrong - no travel insurance required.

To make it even simpler, let a couple of area nurses and veteran staycation planners tell you where to go and what to do there:

Put up a "gone fishin'" sign

Zakiyyah Weatherspoon practices the stress relief she preaches as a board-certified family nurse practitioner. She makes it a priority to leave work at work and to consciously plan to unwind. Each year, she and her husband celebrate their anniversary with a special trip - even if she's spent the rest of that year simultaneously working full-time, pursuing advanced degrees and taking on volunteer commitments. The two also make it a point to take short trips with their children, "little small stuff," she explains. "I get to relax, I get to enjoy."

A favorite spot for a long weekend is the lake behind Weatherspoon's house. "We love fishing and we will do a fire pit and relax in the back yard," she says. While Weatherspoon can walk right out her back door, nurses who live just about anywhere in Georgia are usually quite close to a fishing hole. Sweetwater Creek in Lithia Springs is one great choice. Along with historic mill ruins and extensive hiking trails for every level, the state park stocks "fish attractors" throughout its lakes. Fishing tackle is no problem; you can get it a nearby bait shop.

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Swim into stress-relief

Fairburn, Georgia, bariatric nurse Nancy Juarez Sanchez' first choice for vacation would be a stay at the splendid Riviera Maya near family in Mexico. But when she only has a few days to recharge, she heads to the Georgia mountains. "Nothing like being able to catch a breath of fresh, fully purified air," she says. Both locations offer plenty of chances to swim, which is a very good thing to do on vacation, according to health experts.

"A lake or ocean landscape provides a simplified visual and auditory experience, compared to a city street or room," according to UPMC Health Beat. "This functions as a mental vacation, and the physical activity of swimming with others can lead to feelings of unity and emotional openness. Even small interactions with water, like taking a shower or watching a fountain, show signs of increasing creativity and energy."

To tap this power for your own staycation, consider an excursion to one of Georgia's under-the-radar swimming holes. Or, if you're not up on your swimming lessons, try a short hike and some steady gazing at nearby waterfalls - they're all over metro Atlanta, if you know where to look for them.

Sink your toes in the sand

It's a little-known secret that metro Atlanta and other regions of Georgia have a selection of sand lake beaches. That means there's a spontaneous staycation option when you want sand but don't want to drive or fly. You could go for an upscale option like Robin Lake Beach at Callaway Gardens at Pine Mountain. But there's also Red Top Mountain right in Acworth. This Lake Allatoona sand swimming beach is nestled in a cove and surrounded by trees, sort of like a little private island.

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Make it to the movies

While a break from screen time and phones is one of the ways staycations boost your productivity, having your own movie theater fest is a great idea for a long weekend, according to Weatherspoon. Sure, it will cost more than Netflix to head for one of the movie theaters in metro Atlanta that has recliners and food servers. But it costs so much less than a flight, and you'll still have that feeling of getting away to a new place where no one's going to call out "nurse!" for the next three hours.

You can also make movie magic the "theme" of your staycation. Clear the calendar and visit several art house or deep discount movie theaters over a three- or four-day break. Or step back to another time at a drive-in like Atlanta's Starlight Drive-In. Pack a picnic and be sure to gaze at the stars on the way home to your private Airbnb (also known as your house).

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