When I was growing up, my parents always had words of wisdom like “Eat your vegetables!” or “Sit up straight!” and “Don’t stare at the sun!” But I don’t recall them ever saying to me, “Take all of your vacation!”
Of course, my parents didn’t know how important vacation would be to me as an adult. Actually, I’ve discovered that vacation is important to all of us. The health benefits of getting away from it all can’t be overstated. We all need to strike a balance between work and play; but unfortunately, many of us don’t do that.
Give yourself a break
How many times have you said to yourself, “I don’t have time to take a vacation” or “It takes too much effort to plan a getaway.” Work is always pounding at your door and there just aren’t enough hours in a day to get it all done, right?
There are other reasons, too, according to a survey recently conducted by Expedia, the online travel booking website. They include saving vacation days for the future, difficulty in coordinating family schedules, lack of money and the need to schedule a vacation too far out.
The survey, which you can look at here, has a global perspective. For instance, it shows that managers in Norway, Sweden, Brazil and India are most likely to support employees taking vacations. On the flip side, managers least likely to do so are found in Italy, South Korea, Denmark and Argentina, according to the study. And although Americans earn less vacation time than the rest of the world, they usually don’t take it all, the report says.
And what are the top vacations by category? The survey ranks a beach holiday first (35 percent), followed by a romantic getaway (19 percent), city vacation (12 percent) and outdoor holiday (12 percent).
A prescription for stress relief
But let’s look at vacations from another perspective – your health. There are lots of studies out there that show that down time is important to a person’s physical and mental well-being. The Expedia survey, for example, indicated that 34 percent of the respondents reported feeling better about their jobs and believed they were more productive after taking a vacation.
Another study conducted by tour operator Kuoni and Nuffield Health, the United Kingdom’s largest health care charity, pointed out specific health benefits derived from vacations. To conduct the study, called the Holiday Health Experiment, people were invited to apply for 12 slots. Half of those selected were then sent on a two-week vacation either to Thailand, Peru or the Maldives, while the remainder stayed home and worked.
It’s not surprising that more than 10,000 applied for the study. The individuals chosen were given a health assessment that included measuring their resilience to stress, and monitoring their heart and sleep patterns.
Among the report’s conclusions? Those who went on vacation displayed more energy, had reduced stress and exhibited a more positive mood. They also found themselves sleeping more soundly. “Long-term improvement of sleep can have a positive impact on weight and lower risk of common diseases such as diabetes and also heart disease…” the study says.
One subject of the study who went on vacation also benefitted health-wise from her experience. “Her blood pressure, cholesterol and blood glucose drops are corresponding with the reductions in stress we saw on her Heart Rate Variability tests, which is good for her long-term health,” the report states.
And then there’s a study of 13,000 middle-aged men at risk for heart disease came up with a sobering conclusion. Those who skipped vacations for five consecutive years were 30 percent more likely to suffer heart attacks than those who took at least one week off annually. A separate survey of women came up with even more startling results. The Framingham Heart Study showed that women who took time off once every six years or less were almost eight times more likely to develop coronary heart disease or have a heart attack than those who took at least two vacations a year.
Unwind and unplug
At LSI, we recognize the importance and value of vacation time. We offer a competitive vacation policy to ensure that all of our employees have the opportunity to relax and rejuvenate. In fact, for the past few years, we have designated one additional holiday for all employees worldwide as a way of saying thank you for their hard work and to encourage them to “unplug” for a day.
When you take everything into consideration, it’s pretty obvious that vacations are a necessary part of our lives. So my advice to you – take all of your vacation!