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Give Yourself a Break! The Importance of Taking Regular Vacations
1/1/2020 1:00:00 PM
Give Yourself a Break

When was the last time you took a vacation? According to a survey by Allianz Global Assistance, 36% Americans have not been on a vacation in over two years. Fifty percent have not ventured more than 100 miles from their home.

What does this say about our American culture? Do we put more emphasis on material things than leisure experiences? Are we obsessed with our jobs or do our employers discourage taking time off from work? Yet the negative consequences of not escaping the rigors of everyday life can take a toll on our mental and physical health. Consider the following:

Stress reduction

A study by the American Psychological Association found that vacations reduce stress by removing people from the activities and environments that they associate with stress and anxiety. And the effects last beyond the duration of the vacation. A study from the University of Vienna reported that after taking time off work, vacationers had fewer stress-related physical complaints such as headaches, backaches, and heart irregularities, and they continued to feel better five weeks later.

Improved heart health

Numerous studies tout the cardiovascular health benefits of taking a vacation. Men at risk for heart disease who skipped vacations for five consecutive years were 30 percent more likely to suffer heart attacks than those who took at least a week off each year. Even missing one year’s vacation was associated with a higher risk of heart disease. Studies find similar results with women: Women who took a vacation once every six years or less were almost eight times more likely to develop heart disease, have a heart attack, or die of a coronary-related cause than those who took at least two vacations a year. 

Higher productivity

Ironically, our workaholic efforts to be productive often undermine our ability to consistently perform at peak levels. Efficiency allows us to be more productive and successful, but it requires focus to be truly productive. Professional services firm Ernst & Young conducted an internal study of its employees and found that for each additional 10 hours of vacation time employees took, their year-end performance ratings improved by eight percent. Another study by the Boston Consulting Group found that high-level professionals who were required to take time off were significantly more productive overall than those who spent more time working. 

Better sleep

Thirty-five percent of Americans rate their sleep quality as poor (interestingly, about the same as the percentage of people who rarely take vacations.) Researchers say that vacations can help interrupt the habits that disrupt sleep, like working late into the night or watching a backlit screen before bed. If you suffer from work-related stress or your sleep is disrupted because of anxiety or tension, take a vacation and reset your sleep pattern.

If you’re still pondering your New Year’s resolutions, consider putting "Take a vacation” at the top of your list.

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