People in the U.S. are working more hours and taking less time off, bringing on various mental and physical health challenges. When work is overwhelming and your work-life balance feels out of whack, it’s time to ask yourself, “Should I go on vacation?” Taking a vacation offers many health benefits, but there are factors preventing people from taking a break.
For example, layoffs and lean staffing make it difficult for people doing the work to get away. Some fear that taking a vacation will make them appear less committed than coworkers. The five health benefits of taking a vacation outweigh the stressors that can come with planning a getaway.
Improved physical health
Stress can contribute to heart disease and high blood pressure. For both men and women, the New York Times reported, taking a vacation every two years compared to every six will lessen the risk of coronary heart disease or heart attacks.
Vacation time increases mindfulness
Going on holiday makes you feel more present and stimulated. “When we travel we are usually breaking our normal routine,” says Richard Davidson, professor of psychology and psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and founder of the Center for Healthy Minds. That means we can’t operate on autopilot. “That decreased familiarity is an opportunity for most people to be more fully present, to really wake up,” he says. According to another research study in The Journal of Positive Psychology, meditation and vacations appear to have overlapping effects. The report found that both meditation exercises and vacationing were associated with higher levels of well-being and increased mindfulness.
Vacation time reduces stress
Stress raises levels of certain hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline. In the short term, this can be helpful, triggering the “fight or flight” response that helps you deal with immediate threats. But over time, chronic stress can increase your risk for health issues, including heart disease. A study released by the American Psychological Association concluded that time off helps to reduce stress by removing people from the activities and environments that they associate with anxiety. Are you thinking of heading to the beach or going camping this summer? Another scientific report highlights that spending at least 120 minutes a week in natural environments is associated with good health and well-being.
You might think that going on vacation would grind your workflow to a halt, but you’re actually more productive in the lead-up to your planned time off and upon return to the office. When you’re working in anticipation of getting away, completing the final lists of tasks before take-off feels easier. You can then forge ahead with a clear mind and renewed energy when you’re back at work.
Stimulate creative thinking
If you’re looking at the same cubicle every day, it could stifle your ability to think creatively. Getting out into the world or spending time away from your workspace reignites the visionary spark inside you. You’ll return to work inspired and ready to apply fresh thinking to your professional challenges.