“A vacation is having nothing to do and all day to do it in.” – Robert Orben
The summer vacation season is well underway, yet there’s still time to plan and go on a trip. Why bother? While it may be easy to rationalize foregoing a vacation, the practical benefits you’ll gain from getting away are too good to ignore.
Everyone Needs a Break
You know when things are getting out of control. That’s a clear sign that you really owe it to yourself, your family and coworkers to get in some me time and get away. In case you need a reminder, here are some of the most obvious indicators a me-time vacation may be in order:
- Everything bothers you.
- Fatigue is something you feel all the time.
- Nothing feels like fun.
- Stress is everywhere and appears inescapable.
- Words tumble out of your mouth, some that you wish you hadn’t said.
- Worries mount until they’re overwhelming.
- It’s rush, rush, rush — with no time to rest.
If you recognize yourself reading these symptoms, hit the pause in your mental stream of consciousness and sharpen your Internet search skills. Think of a place you want to go, one that pretty much ensures you’ll be able to leave all these negative thoughts and emotions behind, and figure out a plan to break away for a vacation. Make that a much-needed and well-deserved vacation. After all, everyone needs a break, and a vacation can be the best expense you choose to make.
Taking Time to Recharge Is Important
Overall well-being improves after taking some time to get away on a vacation. That’s the takeaway from a 2016 study published in the Journal of Sustainable Tourism. Researchers found benefits in emotion, cognition and behavior among employees who took a weekend vacation, compared with those who only had a free weekend at home, or free time after work. Those who went on vacation were more engaged in physical and social activities, slept more, and spent less time tending to obligations. Being physically separated meant feeling disconnected from the work worries. There was also less ruminative thinking and increased hedonic well-being among those taking vacations, compared with spending free time after work.
Clear Away the Mind’s Clutter
Overwork is almost always synonymous with mind clutter. There are the to-do lists, the lists of deadlines, the projects on the horizon list, the how-do-I-fix/solve/eliminate/work out-this lists. In fact, the lists are endless, which only exacerbates mind clutter. The prospect of clearing away the mind clutter, however, doesn’t have to be daunting. All it takes is a little preparation and a firm desire to take off on that vacation. If you plan a trip that includes staying at or near a lake, river, ocean or sea, you’ll benefit from what’s been called the “blue mind.” In essence, the blue mind is a state of calm, peacefulness, and a feeling that everything’s right with the world.
Feel Stress Slip Away
Stress is the result of a buildup of the stress hormone cortisol, which alters the brain after chronic exposure. When you remove the source of the stress, the levels of cortisol begin to dip, resulting in a feeling of calm. In a vacation-related analogy, imagine that you’re out in a boat on a lake, with the breeze barely rippling the waves. The lulling motion of the gentle lapping of the water against the boat introduces a sense of serenity and well-being. It’s almost as if you can feel the stress slip away.
The key takeaway here is to reduce the sources of stress, and there’s nothing like a vacation to do just that.
Sleep Improves When You’re Not Meeting Deadlines
An article in Inc. touts the benefits of a vacation to help improve sleep. While it sounds logical that absence from constant deadlines makes for more restful sleep — since you’re not obsessing about how little time you have left to finish a project or task — there’s actually solid science backing the recommendation to go away on a trip. According to researchers, what vacations do for the vacationer is to assist in interrupting the sleep-disrupting habits overworked individuals know all too well: working late hours and endlessly staring at a computer screen into the wee hours when they should be sleeping.
Productivity Improves After Vacation
A 2009 study conducted by the Boston Consulting Group and published in Harvard Business Review found that professionals and consultants taking predictable and required time off can provide the highest levels of service. The study reveals lessons the researchers found over a four-year period, including those that resulted from:
- Imposing a strict mechanism to facilitate taking days and nights off
- Encouraging discussion about what works, and what doesn’t work
- Promotion of various ways to take time off
- Insistence on the support from top executives
In short, those professionals required to take time off returned from vacation and were significantly more productive than those who kept on working without a break. Another revealing finding was that tasks/projects/assignments were much less effort following the professionals’ time away.
The Association of Vacation with Psychological & Physical Well-Being
The study from 2009 published in Psychosomatic Medicine is still relevant, particularly with respect to findings that there is an association of enjoyable leisure activities, such as vacation time, with overall physical and psychological well-being. Researchers found that the reasons these activities are beneficial are because of they serve as breathers and restorers. Breathers provide the opportunity to take a break from everyday obligations, thus inducing an influx of positive emotions, while also reducing stress. Restorers, on the other hand, help rebuild and repair after the body’s resources are depleted or damaged due to stress.
Whether your vacation involves getting away with the family, doing a partners getaway, or soloing it, make time now and give yourself the physical and psychological boost that you deserve.