The Importance of Taking Vacation Time

Taking a vacation is good for your health. In an article published in Allina Health in 2017, psychologist Shannon Torberg shared research that shows Americans work more than anyone in the industrial world and they work longer days and retire later compared to those in other countries. We often work ourselves too hard in the United States. This comes from our historical origin and hard work ethic within our society as well as society causing us to work harder today than ever before. Productivity and stress management trainer and coach Joe Robinson wrote two books called Work to Live and another book called Don’t Miss Your Life. He says the issue is driven by several factors namely workforce cutbacks and lean staffing that make it difficult for people doing their jobs to getaway. In other words, they need you to be at work because there aren’t a lot of people to back you up at work if you need to take a vacation. Also, people are afraid to take a vacation in this lay off era for fear that they will appear less committed than their coworkers. People have this feeling that they are slacking off or not pulling their weight if they take a vacation, which just isn’t true. Several studies show that people who take time away from the job can have physical and psychological health benefits. People who take vacations have lower stress, less risk of heart disease, and are more motivated to achieve their goals. Giving yourself permission and time to refresh can set you up to be more successful in the workplace. 

Here are a few of the mental and physical benefits of taking time away from work.

Improved Physical Health. Stress can contribute to heart disease and high blood pressure. The New York Times reported for both men and woman taking a vacation every two years versus every six years will lessen your risk of coronary heart disease or heart attacks.

Improved Mental Health. Neuroscientists have found that brain structure is altered by chronic exposure to the stress hormone cortisol, which can be a major contributor to anxiety and depression. Feelings of calm arise when time is spent away from work and helps to relieve stress, which allows the body and mind to heal in ways it couldn’t from that cortisol pressure. It is also connected to the heart.

Greater Wellbeing. According to a Gallop study people who always make time for regular trips had a 68.4 score on the Gallop Health Ways Wellbeing Index as opposed to a 54.4 Wellbeing score for less frequent travelers. One study found that three days after vacation subjects’ physical complaints, quality of sleep, and mood improved as compared to before vacation and gains were still present five weeks after vacation. Especially in those who had more personal time and overall satisfaction in vacation. 

Increased Mental Power. After returning from vacation employees are often more focused and productive. Studies have found that chronic stress can modulate a part of the brain that inhibits goal- directed activity and can cause problems with memory. Time off can tune up a well-functioned brain. 

Improved Familial Relationships. Spending time with loved ones can keep relationships strong. A study by the Arizona Department of Health and Human Services found that women who took vacation were more satisfied in their marriages. We don’t know the exact cause and effect of this meaning, did the vacations cause satisfaction in their marriages or was it that the vacations were an effect of a good marriage? In other words, maybe they were taking vacations when they should be and that created greater satisfaction in their marriage. It could be both. 

Decreased Burn Out. Workers who take regular time to relax are less likely to experience burnout, making them more creative and more productive than their overworked and under-rested counterparts.

Planning Alone Can Boosts Happiness. Research shows that planning a vacation can boost happiness and people can feel the effects more than eight weeks before the trip.

The bottom line is taking time away from the stress of work and your daily life can improve your health, your motivation, your relationships, your job performance, and your overall perspective. Essentially vacation and time away give us the break we need to return to our lives and our jobs refreshed and better equipped to handle whatever comes.

Colin Eggleston