Taking vacation is good for your health—really! Feeling overwhelmed by work or like your work-life balance is out of whack? Research shows Americans work more than anyone in the industrialized world. They also take less vacation, work longer days and retire later.
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Importance of taking vacation

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Taking vacation is good for your health—really!

Feeling overwhelmed by work or like your work-life balance is out of whack? Have you skipped out on vacation plans this year?  If so, you are not alone...but you may want to keep reading. 

Research shows Americans work more than anyone in the industrialized world. They also take less vacation, work longer days and retire later.

Productivity and stress management trainer and coach, Joe Robinson, author of, "Work to Live" and "Don't Miss Your Life," says the issue is driven by a number of factors. Namely, work force cutbacks and lean staffing make it difficult for people doing the jobs to get away. People are also afraid to take vacations in the "layoff era" for fear that they will appear less committed than coworkers.

A number of studies have shown that taking time away from the job can have physical and psychological health benefits. People who take vacations have lower stress, less risk of heart disease, a better outlook on life, and more motivation to achieve goals.

Mental and physical benefits

If you still need a little convincing, here is a list of some of the additional benefits of taking time away from work:

  • 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.
  • Improved mental health: Neuroscientists have found that brain structure is altered by chronic exposure to the stress hormone cortisol, which can be a major contributing factor to anxiety and depression. Feelings of calm arise from time away from work and relieve stress, which allows the body and mind to heal in ways that it couldn't if it were still under pressure.
  • Greater well-being: According to a Gallup study, people who "always make time for regular trips" had a 68.4 score on the Gallup-Heathway's Well-Being Index, in comparison to a 51.4 Well-Being score for less frequent travelers. One study found that three days after vacation, subjects' physical complaints, quality of sleep, and mood had improved as compared to before vacation. These gains were still present five weeks later, especially in those who had more personal time and overall satisfaction during their vacation.
  • Increased mental power: Upon returning from vacation, workers are often more focused and productive. Studies have found that chronic stress can actually modulate a part of the brain that inhibits goal-directed activity and can cause problems with memory. Time off can tune up a well-functioning brain.
  • Improved familial relationships: Spending time enjoying life with loved ones can keep relationships strong. A study by the Arizona Department of Health and Human Services found that women who took vacations were more satisfied with their marriages.
  • Decreased burnout: Workers who take regular time to relax are less likely to experience burnout, making them more creative and productive than their overworked, under-rested counterparts.
  • Planning alone boosts happiness: Research shows the biggest boost in happiness comes from planning the vacation. A person can feel the effects up to eight weeks before the trip!

The bottom line is, taking time away from the stresses of work and daily life can improve our health, motivation, relationships, job performance, and perspective and give us the break we need to return to our lives and jobs refreshed and better equipped to handle whatever comes.

Shannon Torberg, PsyD, LP /uploadedImages/Content/Healthy_Set_Go/Provider_photos/Torborg_Shannon.jpg /Health-Conditions-and-Treatments/Mental-health/
Shannon Torberg, PsyD, LP

Meet the expert

Shannon Torberg, PsyD, LP

Shannon Torberg is a licensed psychologist at Allina Health Annandale Clinic with professional interests in cognitive and behavioral therapy; stress, and anxiety and depression. Her favorite place to vacation is Kauai, Hawaii. During vacations, she enjoys sightseeing, picnicking on the beach, swimming in the ocean and adventuring amusement parks. Shannon especially enjoys watching her kids have fun.

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