Another View: Thinking about skipping that vacation time you have? Don’t.
The day had finally come. We finished crossing items off the to-bring list, we had reservations made, we got last-minute responsibilities done, and we packed all our suitcases. We eagerly counted down the hours until we would lock up the house and plug in the address for our Airbnb.
We were going away.
That address, which is now in Connecticut, was supposed to be Philadelphia International Airport. We had originally planned a weeklong vacation in Walt Disney World and Fort Myers, Fla.
Then the Delta variant hit, mask requirements were relaxing, cases were climbing again in many states, and it seemed like our son wouldn’t be able to get vaccinated against COVID-19 by the time of our trip. So we made the smartest decision for our family, and we asked our travel agent to move our resort stay and flights to early next year.
But one thing was for certain - we were still getting away, to some place we felt safer health wise, during our original planned vacation time. This was a decision that was extremely important for us, not only as a family but also individually for my husband and me as employees.
“Taking vacation time is essential to employee survival. That’s because time off from work is integral to well-being, sustained productivity and high performance,” Caroline Castrillon writes in a May 23 Forbes.com article titled “Why taking vacation time could save your life.”
Research shows taking vacations is good for your health in all different aspects. The article lists several benefits of taking off time from work.
• Increases mindfulness - Many times when people take vacations, they are more present and fully involved in the experience. They may even feel at peace.
“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, being quoted in the Forbes article. “That decreased familiarity is an opportunity for most people to be more fully present, to really wake up.”
This is exactly how my husband and I felt when we went on our honeymoon to Florence and Rome, Italy. Nothing can compare to walking through old streets in Europe, filled with history, culture, fabulous cuisine, amazing architecture and much more. We were mesmerized. We were mindful to take it all in.
• Improves heart health - One example recognized by the article included a nine-year study that tracked more than 12,000 middle-aged men who were high risk for heart disease. The results showed the men who took more vacations in a year were less likely to die from any health reason; this encompassed heart attacks and other cardiovascular struggles.
“Taking regular vacations could help reduce the risk for metabolic syndrome - a cluster of health issues including high blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess belly fat and abnormal cholesterol levels,” Castrillon writes. “All of these symptoms raise the risk for heart disease, stroke and type two diabetes.”
• Reduces stress - A minimal amount of stress at varied times is not a bad thing; in fact, it can be good, such as in cases of fight-or-flight modes. But when that stress becomes repetitive and at a high level, it evolves to chronic stress.
“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,” Castrillon relates.
Everyone has stress and to all varied degrees, regarding family life, work responsibilities, financial problems, health issues, unexpected loss of a loved one and more. It is, in many cases, unavoidable. Add in a pandemic, and, well, enough said.
That is why making sure to take time off from work is one thing you can do to help ease the stress you get from the outlets in life. Yes, some of the problems will still be there when you come back. But taking that time off gives your body, mind and spirit the rest they need to rebuild strength and endurance.
• Boosts brainpower - When you take time off, that freedom allows your brain to relax. When your brain relaxes, knowledge and brainpower unite. For instance, when you’re on a run, in the shower or bath, relaxing by the fire or on vacation, many times, that’s when some of your best ideas, thoughts and “aha” moments come to light.
I experience this on my workout walks. I don’t always have mind-blowing epiphanies, but I notice my brain feels relaxed - and somehow really focused at the same time - and that allows me think about how to handle situations better, what I need to prioritize for the rest of the day, what am I looking forward to during the week and how absolutely beautiful Mother Nature is.
“Adam Galinsky, professor and chair of the management division at Columbia Business School, has conducted numerous studies drawing a link between travel and creativity,” Castrillon writes.
‘“Foreign experiences increase both cognitive flexibility and depth and integrativeness of thought, the ability to make deep connections between disparate forms,’” Castrillon quotes Galinsky in the article.
Hitting the pavement clears the junk and stress out of my head, so I can focus on bettering myself and my family. If I feel this when taking a 1-mile walk, just imagine how much taking a whole vacation does for my brain!
• Improves sleep - Think back to a time when you had a horrible night’s sleep. How did you feel when you woke up? I’m assuming not good. How did the rest of the day go? Did you need a nap or another cup of coffee in the afternoon? Did you get a headache? In today’s world, we have a lot on our minds. One way to alleviate restless nights is by taking a vacation.
“A study conducted by New Zealand Air asked participants on vacation to wear a wrist device that would monitor their quality of sleep starting three days before their holiday until three days after their return. They also kept a sleep diary and were measured for reaction times before, during and after their trip,” Castrillon reports in the article. “Research found that after two to three days of vacation, the participants averaged an hour more of good, quality sleep and experienced an 80-percent improvement in their reaction times. When they returned home, they were still sleeping close to an hour more, and their reaction time was 30 percent to 40 percent higher than before the trip.”
I’m not a doctor, but all of these effects of taking a vacation sound pretty good to me. You don’t have to spend a lot of money on a vacation to reap the health benefits of getting away; it’s not necessarily how luxurious your trip is. The simple fact that you take time off to destress, relax, absorb, replenish and grow is what counts - no matter how or where that takes place.
Your time off from your employer, if applicable, is there for a reason. Take it, and enjoy the rewards.
Stacey A. Koch