Americans are horrible about taking time off of work. We need to be better at being lazy.
More than 4 in 10 people don’t take all of the vacation days that they are entitled to enjoy, according to a 2014 study by the U.S. Travel Association (who obviously would like us all to take a vacation ASAP).
Why don’t we take vacation time? Because we’re irreplaceable, that’s why. Because no one else can do our work as well as we can. Because if someone else can do our work, we might get fired. Or because even though an organization grants a specific amount of vacation days, the company culture frowns on anyone taking more than a couple of days off at any one time.
Even employees who do take time off tend to work while they are on “vacation.” We answer a few emails, give feedback on a project’s progress, hop on a conference call … and the next thing you know we’re at work even if we aren’t in our cubicles.
We do this despite the health and productivity benefits of downtime. We aren’t at our best without a break to recharge, recalibrate and feel replenished.
How do you know when it’s time to get away? A recent article in US News noted that it’s all about understanding the needs of your body. The body is like an ecosystem that goes barren if it’s overused and uncared for. Part of good self-care is, according to the article, taking “a three-day weekend at least once every two months and a real vacation, of a week or more, once a year.”
Vacations need to be done right – being absent from the office physically but in the same work mental state doesn’t provide you with the recharge you need. Prioritize your health. Vacation time provides the opportunity to catch up on your sleep and de-stress with whatever exercise or sports that you enjoy.
To get the best out of your vacation, set those boundaries – we all know you’re going to look at your email, so let your colleagues know when you’ll be checking in and when you will be unreachable. Many us seem to experience less stress when we work a little bit during vacation, rather than going off the grid entirely.
Vacations Are Good For Your Health
Medical studies continue to show that vacations are essential for a happy, healthy life.
The Framingham Heart Study–the largest and longest-running study of cardiovascular disease– revealed that men who didn’t take a vacation for several years were 30 percent more likely to have heart attacks compared to men who did not take time off. And women who took a vacation only once every six years or less were almost eight times more likely to develop coronary heart disease or have a heart attack compared to women who vacationed at least twice a year.
HealthNet cites a study conducted by Marshfield Clinic which determined that those who vacationed less often than once every two years were more likely to suffer from depression and increased stress than women who took vacations at least twice a year. A similar study by the University of Pittsburgh’s Mind Body Center also found that vacations relieve depression and improve general wellness – even lowering people’s blood pressure in some cases.
Seriously, go forth and have yourself a long weekend or a proper vacation. American workers have piled up 429 million unused vacation days. According to Project Time Off, your boss will not only understand your need to take a holiday, he or she knows that downtime helps make you a healthier, happier, more productive colleague.
Have a good vacation!
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