By Heather Matzkowitz, LMSW
Many of us place a great deal of importance on our jobs. We work long hours, try to never miss a day unless we are sick, and put a lot of time and energy into our careers. This is all important, don’t get me wrong, but it's just as important to take time away from work. There are a multitude of physical and mental health benefits to gain from taking a vacation.
The average employee in the United States takes only half of their assigned vacation time. People often have the misconception that in order to be successful they need to sacrifice their happiness. However, research has shown that by taking time off from work you’re going to be more productive, have higher performance, and improve your relationships with others. Vacations help to reduce stress by distancing us from the environments and daily activities that we associate with stress and anxiety. It's important to note that taking several smaller vacations per year has been shown to be more beneficial for increasing overall wellbeing as opposed to taking one long vacation.
So what exactly are some of the benefits of taking a vacation?
Mental Health: Vacations make us feel good and happy, especially while planning them (aka the ‘pre-vacation high'). Rumination, which is the anxiety-creating tendency that enables us to focus on things in our lives that cause us distress, has been shown to decrease during vacations and remain low several weeks after being home. Returning to work after time off helps you to feel less stressed and more focused.
Physical Improvements: Sleep quality is improved and mood continues to remain heightened during and after returning home from a vacation. Studies have also shown that taking vacations can decrease the chances of getting heart disease.
Career: Taking a vacation reduces burnout rates, which enables you to be to be a happier and more diligent worker. Travel has also been shown to boost creative thinking, which can improve work performance.
Relationship Improvement: A vacation can help promote emotional bonding and bring you and your partner closer together. Spending time together in a different place can help you rediscover the foundations of what made you a couple in the first place.
Going on a vacation that is far away can be expensive, so picking a vacation that is close by home is likely to be more affordable and just as beneficial for the soul. Go away for a weekend (or week) to a small cabin in the woods, or enjoy the warm weather by relaxing on a beach. While vacationing you should try to minimize doing work related tasks (yes, this includes sending emails) and going on social media, especially if you are away with your partner. Doing this will increase partner bonding and allow you to truly immerse yourself into relaxation. So what are you waiting for? Go take some time and plan your next vacation!
Heather Matzkowitz, LMSW is a therapist at Cobb Psychotherapy. If you would like to work on work/life balance, visit cobbpsychotherapy.com to learn more about how therapy can help.