After just coming back from vacation, I have reflected on the benefits of “stopping” and taking a break from work and everyday stressors. The vacation included extra sleep, limited phone and email time, relaxation and pursuing activities that brought purpose and meaning, including hiking, reading books and spending time with family, which are all shown to reduce depression and anxiety and improve overall wellbeing.
Vacation gives the mind and body an opportunity to rest from job-related worries and deadlines that contribute to physical and mental ailments. Studies have shown that chronic stress can affect our body’s abilities to fight infection, maintain key functions, such as digestion, and contribute to injuries and accidents. From a mental standpoint, when we are stressed, we become more irritable and anxious, our memory declines and we make poorer decisions. Additionally, our connections with others are affected – we tend to lash out at the people closest to us – and become less present and engaged.
However, according to a recent survey, the average U.S. employee only takes half of their allotted vacation and, of those who did go on “holiday,” over 50 percent admitted to doing work on vacation. In a culture where “work more’ is the mantra, it’s no wonder we are overwhelmed, overworked and disconnected from those around us.
If you need more proof that vacations are not only good for our mental and physical health, below are several science-based reasons that taking a break – whether a staycation or exotic beach trip – is not only good for your soul, but also increases productivity and focus that benefits your employer.
Benefits of Vacations
- Heart Disease Prevention – Numerous studies have proven that taking a vacation can have benefits on the health of your cardiovascular system. In one study, men who skipped vacations for five consecutive years were 30 percent more likely to suffer a heart attack than those men who took at least a week’s vacation every year. Similar results in another study specifically focusing on women, showed that those who took a vacation once every six years or less were eight times more likely to develop heart disease, have a heart attack or die of coronary-related causes.
- Better Sleep – Stress has been associated with unhealthy sleep patterns, rumination and wandering mind, and lack of sleep affects emotional regulation. Additionally, inconsistent sleep increases our risk for accidents, and reduces concentration and retention. Taking a vacation can help us catch up on our sleep and gives us an opportunity to change to a healthier sleep pattern.
- Improvements in relationships and family bonding. When we are stressed, we tend to disconnect with others, affecting our ability to be “present” with our loved ones. Vacation gives us an opportunity to reconnect with family. Research has concluded that family vacations positively improve family bonding and communication, allowing for shared experiences and memories which foster growth and communication.
- Increased Self-Reflection and Perspective – Taking a break from everyday stressors can give us distance from our struggles or problems, allowing us to be more mindful of ourselves and others. Many times, vacations give us the “aha” moment in which we have time to self-reflect on our lives and current situations and gives us clarity on our life’s purpose and meaning, which can lead to positive changes or goals when we return.
Taking time off from our everyday lives is an important form of self-care that not only benefits us personally, but has positive effects on our family connections, as well as improves our work performance and productivity. The bottom line is that breaks are good for our mind and body and can have a lasting effect on our overall health.
Erin Swinson, LPC, LMHCA
Whitbourne, S.K., Ph.D. (2010, June 22). The importance of vacations to our physical and mental health. Retrieved on March 30, 2017 from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/fulfillment-any-age/201006/the-importance-vacations-our-physical-and-mental-health.
Daskal, L. (2016, June 13). 4 Scientific Reasons Vacations Are Good for Your Health, Retrieved on March 30, 2017 from http://www.inc.com/lolly-daskal/4-scientific-reasons-why-vacation-is-awesome-for-you.html