Many Americans see their work ethic as a point of pride. However, an overzealous work ethic can be detrimental to our physical and mental health.
For many, vacations are seen as a luxury. And in fact, for many workers, vacation time is something they can't afford. The U.S. is one of the few developed nations in the world that does not mandate a set number of days off for employees. In fact, one-fourth of all American workers receive no paid time off. Some countries, like France and the United Kingdom, are afforded over 20 days off. This is because nations across the globe view vacations for what they are — a necessity for a well-balanced, healthy life.
Why Taking a Vacation Is Good for You
Even when businesses offer their employees paid vacation days, many employees neglect to take advantage of these. 54 percent of the workers in the U.S. with PTO do not even use the days they have. The main reason for this is that they feel they can't leave work or that things will fall apart if they are not there.
If you are one of those people, it's time to stop viewing vacations as an excess and start seeing them for what they are — non-negotiable. Here are five reasons why taking a vacation is good for your overall health:
- Improves Job Performance: Don't believe the old wives tale that taking time off for a vacation will hurt you at work. In fact, the opposite is true. Those who take time off find that it decreases their number of sick days and makes them more productive and more creative on the job. Some time off also allows workers to feel more satisfied with their job.
- Relieves Stress: The hustle and bustle of constant work with no breaks are not good for your mental health. Stress is the common side effect of an uninterrupted workflow. Chronic stress is a destructive force caused by the release of cortisol and epinephrine. These hormones are meant to be released in small doses as part of our "fight or flight" response, but in large quantity, they wreak havoc on our mental and physical health. Getting away for awhile gives your body a chance to recuperate.
- Prevents Illness and Heart Disease: One of the effects of stress is the damage it can cause to our immune system, making us more susceptible to illness. Stress can also lead to more serious conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), high blood pressure, cancer and even heart disease. Those who take regular vacations lower their risk of heart attacks by a huge margin. It also allows people to feel more vital and healthier.
- Resets Your Priorities: Those who work in a "dog eat dog" world, tend to forget that there is life outside the workplace. Work with no rest creates stress not only on their own health but also in their personal relationships. Vacations are a chance to reset and remind oneself that a career is not the end-all and be-all. In fact, regular family vacations forge closer familial bonds. Spouses report being happier in their married life, and both children and adults create memories that last a lifetime.
- Increases Feelings of Happiness: With stress running rampant throughout the American workplace, it is no wonder the number of people struggling with feelings of depression or anxiety has increased dramatically in recent years. Chronic exposure to stress is known to be a contributing factor to both of these mental health conditions. The effects of taking a vacation last long after those days are over. People who take regular vacations are less likely to suffer from depression and anxiety and report feeling an overall satisfaction and happiness with their life.
Do not buy into the deception that time for vacations is a luxury you can't afford. For the sake of your mental and physical health, view these times away from work as a yearly priority for your whole family. Don't wait. Whether it is a cabin in the woods, visiting family or hitting the beach, start planning your vacation today.