What one little thing can achieve so many health and well-being goals from reducing stress to strengthening family relationships to improving your job performance?
The answer: a vacation.
If only Americans could take a hint from Europeans who rarely miss the chance for a relaxing vacation, averaging 25-30 vacation days from work each year and managing to use most of those days.
But, a new survey by Robert Half – a specialized staffing firm based out of Menlo Park, Calif. – shows 39 percent of workers this year won’t use all of the paid vacation time they’ve earned. Among those surveyed, 38 percent said they are saving days in case they need them, while 30 percent are afraid of falling behind on the job.
"We know that adequate rest and relaxation are essential for good mental and physical health," said Dr. Stuart Anfang, medical director of Adult Outpatient Psychiatry at Baystate Medical Center. "Time off allows you to recharge, to reconnect with family and friends, and to refresh your mind and body."
A survey by the Mind Body Center at the University of Pittsburgh, concluded that leisure time activities, such as taking a vacation, resulted in higher positive emotional levels and less depression among the 1,399 participants, who had been recruited for studies on cardiovascular disease, breast cancer and other diseases. Additional benefits included lower blood pressure and smaller waistlines.
Disconnecting from electronics
When you do take time off this summer, it’s important to truly leave your work behind and take a break from all your electronic distractions.
"In our high-tech, Wi-Fi connected world of cell phones, texts and emails, it can be a challenge to disconnect from work and other responsibilities. Try unplugging for even just a few hours, or give yourself a day of electronic rest on a weekend or especially during vacation," Dr. Anfang said. "The e-mails and phone messages will still be there, and you can come back refreshed, and ready to respond with renewed energy, focus and attention."
Vacationing on a budget
Hotwire's American Travel Behavior Survey found 87 percent of Americans would prefer to take more leisure trips if they felt they had the time and money to do so.
"Summer vacations are especially popular because of great weather and school break for families. Even if you can’t take off lots of time or afford a big trip, spending a weekend day doing something fun - not just errands and chores - can really be helpful and healthy," said Dr. Anfang.
Where to go and what to do to decompress when you can’t afford the costs associated with a vacation from plane tickets, to eating out, to hotels, to the cost of gas?
Consider these ideas:
- Go camping
- Visit a nearby lake to cool off and relax
- Spend a day at a city or state park where there are often activities such as picnicking, swimming and more
- Take day trips
- Enjoy a "staycation" by hanging out in your own backyard next to your pool or lounging in a hammock and reading a good book.
"You don’t necessarily have to go very far or spend a lot of your hard-earned money to take a vacation. What is important is to get away from your normal daily routine to recharge your batteries by leaving work back at the office, doing something you really enjoy, or spending quality time with family," Dr. Anfang said.