This post originally appears on the author's corporate blog.
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“I'm so burned out but how can I take a vacation without falling behind at work?”
Phone calls. Texts. Emails. Slack Messages. 24/7. The alerts never stop!
It has become entirely too easy to connect with work and extremely difficult to retreat for even a day or two of relaxation. The result of this twisted relationship with technology and work is less joy and more burnout. Wouldn't you agree? I remember a time when I worried constantly about leaving my company for a few days to travel to Italy – for fear of the whole thing imploding and having to rebuild like the ruins in Rome! If you struggle with wanting to take a vacation from work but feel guilty about doing so – you're not alone. A recent survey found that 54% of Americans fail to use all of their vacation days each year. In addition to that, big cities like DC, SF, and LA lead the way in this “vacation-less” lifestyle. No wonder we're all stressed out!
Now is the time to seriously consider taking that vacation. Whether to improve mental health, connect with your family and friends on a deeper level, or to regain purpose and creativity at work, these are the reasons why you should say “Yes!” to PTO and not even think twice about it:
Vacations are good for your mental [and physical] health.
If I told you that perfect attendance at work might be a cause of that flu that knocked you out last month, would you believe me? Or – what about those 10 pounds you can't seem to shake off in order to reach your goal weight? For better or for worse, constant work creates stress in our lives and the impact of that stress can be felt deeply on the molecular level. Here's what Psychology Today says about the dangers of work-induced stress:
When you're stressed out and tired, you are more likely to become ill, your arteries take a beating, and you're more likely to have an accident. Your sleep will suffer, you won't digest your food as well, and even the genetic material in the cells of your body may start to become altered in a bad way. Mentally, not only do you become more irritable, depressed, and anxious, but your memory will become worse and you'll make poorer decisions. You'll also be less fun to be with, causing you to become more isolated, lonely, and depressed.
Combat stress and build up your defenses by making vacation travel an integral part of your life!
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Vacations help you build deeper connections with the people who matter most to you.
Have you ever found yourself saying “gosh, I wish I spent more time with [Insert Employee Name] in Accounting more often!”? Probably not. But have you ever kicked yourself in the butt for not spending enough time with your spouse, your kids, or your friends who all get lost as we race to climb the ladder of workplace success? Probably! Vacation is a powerful way to connect with people you care about while building memories that can last a lifetime.
Don't believe this is incredibly important? Here's an exercise for you:
Step 1: Think about – and write down – your favorite memory from your last staff meeting.
Step 2: Think about – and write down – your favorite memory from a vacation you took as a child.
Step 3: Pause and think about which memory made you smile more… My guess is that it was the latter and not the former. And that warm feeling of joy that you got from your vacation memory? That's actively elevating your mood and putting you in a better headspace!
When you retire, or change jobs, or sell your company (if you're an entrepreneur) – you're going to want to have people around you that enjoy being in your company. Don't be that guy or girl who works so much that no one close to you really knows the real you!
Vacations help you “think outside the box” when it comes to creative approaches to tackling workplace issues.
Now, this might seem a bit counterproductive for me to encourage you to take a vacation if you want to become better at work – but it's true. In a recent NBC News article, NYC-based Psychologist Dr. Kathryn Smerling says:
“By taking time off, you’ll find a renewed sense of purpose, more energy to carry out tasks and in general, an overall sense of happiness.”
The long and short of it all is that taking the time to step away from work just might be the very thing you need to help you step up at work! Who knows? You might meet someone in your field at the pool bar and chat about best practices. You could finally get the time to read that great self-help book you've been meaning to tackle but never found the time. Or, the quality of your time away might give you the time you needed to reflect on your life purpose and give you the push you need to really get into the driver's seat of life!
Vacation is an incredibly powerful tool for both relaxation and career. It settles your spirit which helps combat work-induced stress and it gives you the time and space to build new memories with the people you love.