People in Europe think Americans who avoid taking vacation time are crazy. While a stoic work ethic is admirable and very American, everyone deserves and needs occasional breaks from their workplace responsibilities and regular home life routines. Any time spent away from work helps us, and while staycations can be fun, travel provides additional benefits. Even if it’s only to a nearby recreation spot, travel refreshes everyone by changing the literal and figurative view. In other words, a change of scenery can change someone’s outlook.

Vacation, Especially with Travel, Has Five Benefits:

1- Improved Physical Health

We all talk about “taking mental health days” when we feel stressed, but stress does more than make us feel anxious. Stress is a risk factor for many physical illnesses like heart disease and high blood pressure or hypertension. Doctors see a high correlation between high cortisol levels, the hormone the body releases during stress, and high cholesterol, triglycerides, blood sugar, and blood pressure. Stress could also cause people to drink too much or eat too much of the wrong foods, both of which cause diseases like diabetes, cancer, and heart disease. For more information, read the article on about how high blood pressure damages artery and heart walls. Relieving stress daily with exercise and recreational activities helps but getting a week-long vacation can reduce your cortisol levels tremendously.

In a study by researchers Gump and Matthews, published originally by The Journal of Psychosomatic Medicine, vacations improved the health of men with high risk for coronary disease. They studied 12,000 men and found that those who took regular annual breaks had a lower death rate than those who didn’t.

When we take active vacations like scuba diving, hiking, biking, fishing, swimming, etc., we get some exercise we wouldn’t normally get. A week spent swimming every day, even when combined with eating out more, can improve our physical fitness and health.

2- Improved Mental Health

This one is easy to understand and believe. Taking time away improves mental health by reducing stress, providing a fresh perspective, and strengthening family bonds. Neuroscientists know that chronic exposure to stress can alter your brain and cause anxiety and depression. On vacation, we see new sites and have new experiences which help us put everyday problems and challenges into proper perspective.

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “I declare this world is so beautiful that I can hardly believe it exists.” Everyone has had similar feelings while viewing natural beauty like the ocean, mountains, or the Grand Canyon. Seeing and appreciating the natural world helps us understand that the pile of negatives we may have imagined a week ago seems smaller and less burdensome.

3- Improved Family and Marital Connections

As was mentioned above, vacations provide an opportunity to improve marital and family relationships. When we work all the time it makes life hectic, bonds can fray a bit. Vacations allow us to learn more about and appreciate each other. You know a different side of your children and spouse when daily pressures and other social relationships are set aside for a week or so.

Can a romantic vacation help a relationship? Some research shows it can. For example, one study by James F. Petrick and Angela M. Durko of Texas A&M University determined that “the more satisfied you are with your trips, the more satisfied you are with your relationship. And the more satisfied you are with your relationship, the more committed you are to that person.”

4- Attitude and Perspective Reset

Along with the other mental health benefits like stress relief, traveling on vacation might push a reset button on an employee’s attitude. Sometimes, a series of problems or even just annoyances can cause someone to feel negative about going to work. Once that negativity sets in, it can be hard to shake, but a vacation might do the trick.

Having fun with family and friends, seeing new sights, and even trying new food, and activities often erases the negative outlook. The team member even starts to feel better about the workplace when anticipating the upcoming trip. The planning and anticipation keep someone from ruminating about problems with a coworker or frustrations with a project.
When vacation is over, the team member returns to work with renewed energy and positivity.

5- Decreased Career Burnout

If you add together stresses like being overworked, chronic stress, mental and physical health problems, and a feeling that there’s no end in sight, you get career burnout. Regular annual vacations, plus a few long weekends throughout the year, do a lot to prevent burnout. Because a work break helps with stress, mental health, physical health, and attitude, those causes of burnout are less problematic.

What is Burnout? published an article on burnout. They quote Bridgeman, Bridgeman & Barone as saying, “Burnout is an occupational phenomenon where employees experience a mix of physical and psychological symptoms that result in decreased job satisfaction and productivity.” They list symptoms, including everything from sleep disturbances and irritability to stomach disorders, headaches, and even drug or alcohol abuse.

Burned-out team members will certainly be less productive and creative. Many take more sick days to try to feel better; eventually, some even quit their jobs. Sometimes you might need to remind everyone that working too much without a break is less productive. People who haven’t had a break in too long can’t bring creative solutions to workplace challenges. They can’t be as supportive of their team, either.

The last thing any company wants is burned out, unhappy, uncreative, unproductive people in the office or facility. Many things contribute to burnout, including management problems, fatigue, delivery time pressure, and poor workflow, but making sure everyone takes their vacation time will help prevent it.

When team members anticipate, plan, and then take vacations, they are less stressed and physically and mentally healthier. People returning from a vacation, especially when they’ve traveled, often bring a new, more positive outlook to work when they return. Their renewed creative energy and problem-solving skills help their team and company succeed.


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