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You deserve a break today - vacations are time for recharging our batteries

July 31, 2015
Island beach with sea surf

McDonald’s had it right when they came up with the slogan, “You deserve a break today.”

But many American’s aren’t taking the break they need when it comes to recharging and taking a vacation from work.

Did you know that other countries actually have annual leave statutes on the books? Down-under in Australia they get four weeks off by law for vacation. France and Finland have 30 days off. And many Europeans have four to five weeks of play time. And they take it.

According to a survey from the travel website Skift, about 42 percent of Americans said they didn’t take a single vacation day last year. Yet another survey from employment site Glassdoor last year found that American workers only used half their eligible vacation time, with many citing concern that no other employee could do their job and that they would fall behind, while some were actually afraid that they might lose their job.

According to Dr. Benjamin Liptzin, a psychiatrist at Baystate Medical Center, people need some down time to relax their brain and their body.

“You can’t keep going 60 miles per hour, 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” he said.

"Having some rest and relaxation makes people more productive when they do return to work. It also can help provide some more balance between work and home life if people get to spend some uninterrupted time with family or friends or just pursuing their own hobbies and interests," he added.

And, with less stress, you won’t age so fast. A study in the journal Biological Psychiatry noted the stress hormone cortisol, which is released in elevated amounts into the body when you haven’t taken a much needed break, can speed up the aging process.

In addition to resting your brain and lowering your stress levels, Dr. Liptzin said there are plenty of studies that provide evidence to the health benefits of taking time off from decreased risk of heart disease for both men and women, as documented in the landmark Framingham Heart Study, to less depression and even lower blood pressure and maintaining a healthy weight.

Some people take the office with them even on a vacation, noted Dr. Liptzin.

"Checking emails and making phone calls isn’t exactly putting work aside. Yet some feel if they don’t do that, then they’ll have a huge backlog when they do get back to work," he said.

But what about those who can’t afford a vacation?

A vacation doesn’t have to be away at some exotic place. Just taking time to go for walks, to watch a movie on television, or enjoy a meal with friends can provide a much needed break from everyday stresses.

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 the following:

• 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.