4 Healthy Reasons To Take Vacations
By Jody Pickruhn, LCSW
Are vacations necessary? A suggestion? An impediment to getting your job done?
If you view vacations as an option that you can skip, then you’re pretty typical. The average American employee takes only half of her or his eligible vacation time.
Of those who do go on vacation, more than half – 60 percent – spend some time on the job while vacationing. About a quarter were in touch with a coworker and 20 percent were contacted by their supervisor about work.
Reasons for skipping vacation may include trying to meet high demands of the job or to avoid criticism from supervisors or coworkers for being away. Some employees may have the feeling that the employer could find that they’re easily replaceable or not needed at all.
Well-Planned Vacations Are Beneficial for Health
A good vacation can improve both your physical and mental health.
1. Reduce your stress. A number of scientific studies have been done about vacations. One study found when you’re removed from stresses at work, your stress and anxiety levels can drop. The effects last up to five weeks after you’re back from vacation.
Stress reduction can reduce stress-related complaints such as headaches and muscle aches such as back pain. Stress reduction can even be a factor in resolving heart irregularities.
2. Boost your heart health. A study of men at risk for heart disease learned that those who skipped vacations for several years were 30 percent more likely to have a heart attack than those who took at least a week off every year. Skipping just one year’s vacation increased the risk for heart disease.
A study of women compared women who took at least two vacations per year to women who took only one vacation every several years. The women who took fewer vacations were about eight times more likely to develop heart disease, have a heart attack or die of a coronary-related problem.
3. Reduce depression. A study in rural Wisconsin found that women who vacationed every other year or less were more likely to suffer from depression and higher stress than women who took a couple of vacations each year.
Leisure activities, including vacations, helped enhance people’s positive emotions and reduce depression.
4. Improve your sleep. You may have experienced sleeplessness when you’re worried about something at work. You may work late into the evening or check your email before bed. These habits can hurt your sleep cycles.
Being short on sleep can leave you less alert and focused. Sleep deprivation can impair your memory. It can also increase risks for accidents.
A good vacation can short-circuit these bad work-related sleep habits and get you back to sleeping better.
Vacations Are Good for Productivity
Getting more done with less is the essence of productivity. A study by Ernst and Young found for every additional 10 hours of vacation time employees took, their annual performance ratings improved by 8 percent.
Studies have also found employees who vacation regularly tend to leave their firms at a lower rate.
Plan Your Vacations
We mentioned a well-planned vacation is good for health. That’s important to note because poorly planned or last-minute vacations can leave you as stressed as you were before.
Plan the details ahead of time. Studies have found happy travelers tend to plan their vacations more than a month in advance. While you’re traveling in unfamiliar locations, arranging local travel or accommodations last-minute can boost your stress.
A good travel agent can help with planning and stress reduction. Having a knowledgeable friend or “guide” familiar with your destination area can be helpful. Ask friends or family members who travel regularly for happy traveling recommendations.
So, take time to plan your vacation. Then pack your bags, enjoy yourself and enhance your wellness. We’ll see you after you’ve de-stressed.
Jody Pickruhn, LCSW, is a licensed psychotherapist providing counseling for individuals, couples, families and groups, at the Aurora Behavioral Health Center in Summit, WI. To learn more about Jody go to aurora.org/doctors. To schedule an appointment with Jody, call 414-773-4312.
The information presented in this article is intended for general information and educational purposes. It is not intended to replace the advice of your own physician. Contact your physician if you believe you have a health problem.
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