Do you ever wish your work week was shorter? It seems like most Americans do. Experiments with four-day work weeks were all the rage at one point. And it’s no wonder many wish they had more time to relax or that they could have a day off where they didn’t think about work. At the same time, more than half of Americans don’t use their paid vacation time, even when they need the break. This happens for many reasons, but most often, it’s because we feel an obligation to our employer or our jobs.
Unsurprisingly, this need to work when we deserve a break is hurting us. In fact, studies have shown that people who take a break from work and use vacation days are more productive than those who leave that time on the table.
So, the next time you hesitate before booking that getaway, keep these five things in mind:
- Vacation can help your physical health. Besides the constant stressors you get at home, there are constant stressors at work. When faced with stress, our bodies release cortisol, the so-called “stress hormone.” Cortisol is responsible for our bodies’ fight or flight response. It raises our blood pressure, making our hearts pump faster and allowing us to react to what we perceive as a dangerous situation. Living with constant stress will cause your body to consistently release cortisol, consistently boosting blood pressure. This can lead to serious health concerns. Taking a break from the stress of work, for even a long weekend, may reduce the effects of cortisol while giving you time to relax.
- Planning a vacation can make you happier. Imagine the cool ocean breeze as you sit sipping on a sweet drink, the picturesque views from the top of mountains or the crackle of the fire as you roast s’mores in your backyard. You can get the benefits without breaking the bank. Studies have found that just having something to look forward to can increase people’s happiness. It can also give you the boost you need to finish the project or report you’ve been working on, knowing that you will be able to have fun and relax soon enough.
- Going on vacation can help your overall mental health. It has the ability to lessen anxiety and depression purely by taking you away from what you associate with stress. For me, the most anxiety and depression-inducing situations have to do with school, but when I’m home over winter or summer break, I feel more relaxed and better able to focus. This is because I’m away from what I associate with stress. If you associate work with stress, going on vacation and leaving the work behind can reduce your anxiety and depression.
- Spending time with your crew allows you to strengthen important connections. Yes, you may spend time with them in the evenings or on the weekends, but how much of that time is actually spent together? With distractions such as phones and TV, you’re together, but not really. Going on vacation can give you a chance to spend time together without being tethered to other activities. Vacations also give you a chance to make memories that will stick with you for a long time.
- Your brain needs a break. Studies have found that focusing attention on something without a break depletes energy and in turn, decreases performance. Your brain needs a chance to reset and that could be something as simple as taking a day trip to a waterfall or staying home and spending time outside. Breaks, particularly those that give you a dose of nature, can help your brain reset and leave you feeling more refreshed, leading to more productivity when you return to the office.
Taking a vacation during the middle of the work week may not seem like the right thing to do, but not using your paid vacation days can lead to stress, health problems and an overall decrease in productivity. So, it seems pretty simple to me. Plan your next break and see how beneficial it will be for you.