The change in seasons is a great time to pause and reflect. How did you spend your summer? Did you take advantage of the warm weather and travel? Did you spend more time with your family? Did you enjoy the moments and create great memories?
Or did you, like many of us, keep up with the same punishing pace you keep the rest of the year? When you take time off, does it feel like you’re just going to get behind and end up even more stressed trying to catch up (than if you had just stayed at work instead of taking that vacation)?
So many of us end up in this mindset, and we need to break free! Taking time to rest, recharge, and refresh your life can have benefits beyond just a few days off. In the U.S., we’re so bad at this. A 2019 study done by the U.S. Travel Association showed us that 768 million vacation days weren’t used in 2018. That’s not a typo – 768 million! Those were available to be used, but weren’t. Why aren’t we using those??
Because we have the attitude that the only way to get ahead, the only way to show that we take our career seriously, is to just…. never….. stop….. working……
And a lot of companies in the U.S. feed into this culture. While they do offer vacation time as a benefit, it’s clear to those who work there that using those vacation days is generally frowned upon. It’s difficult to ask for the time off, it’s nearly impossible to stick with it, ignoring the subtle suggestions that you cancel it, then ignoring the emails, calls, pings, and dings your phone receives for the entire time you’re gone.
This needs to change. Taking time off to completely reset has so many benefits for our health (physical and mental). Anxiety, depression, headaches, stomachaches, gastrointestinal distress – all of these are issues that we deal with when we don’t take that time.
And it doesn’t even have to be a full vacation. What do you do in the evening? Do you work late, and then finally get home, only to watch and hear your phone dinging with incoming notifications and emails all night? Do you spend your Saturdays trying to accomplish all of the household tasks you need to? What about just sitting down and relaxing? Having a conversation with your kids or your partner? Watching TV or a movie? Reading a book? Sitting still and just staring at the wall doing nothing?
These little micro-breaks are just as important as full vacations. Completely disconnecting from work – not accepting calls in off-hours; maybe even using a completely separate work phone. Don’t look at your emails or Teams or Skype or whatever app your team uses to communicate. For those 48 hours, just pretend you don’t even have a job.
Won’t that just make Monday morning that much worse?
No! These breaks are vital for your wellbeing. Reduce your stress, stop getting those headaches, reduce your anxiety, reduce back pain and neck pain, and just generally feel better. And, maybe contradictorily, when you get back into the office, you’ll feel refreshed, relaxed and better able to focus on what you need to do.
If anything resonated with you here, please reach out. I am here to help!