No one can deny the past two years have been challenging. The constant stress and anxiety of juggling demands in their personal and professional lives during a global pandemic have taken heavy tolls on everyone’s physical and psychological health.
Indications of this appear in the University of Phoenix’s first annual Career Optimism Index™. As reported in February 2021, 51 percent of all Americans and 56 percent of working parents said the COVID-19 pandemic negatively impacted their work-life balance Additionally, 34 percent of Americans said their mental health negatively impacted their work performance, and 33 percent had looked for mental health resources to help them manage work-related stress.
Taking vacations is crucial to maintaining both mental health and a healthy work-life balance. As 2021 winds down and travel is once more a viable option, going on a trip might be just what the doctor ordered. In fact, as a licensed mental health professional who has counseled individuals and couples for more than a decade, my suggestions are to always take vacation time and use that time to improve your mental wellness by disconnecting.
Why Vacations Matter
I have directly observed how individuals who place pressure on their work performance and never take time off experience higher levels of anxiety, lower self-confidence and a range of physiological conditions. Chronic stress is linked with several medical ailments, including high blood pressure, glucose regulation disorders such as type 2 diabetes, sleep disturbances and cardiovascular disease.
Taking a proper vacation has been shown to reduce serum levels of the hormone cortisol, which the body produces during times of stress. Lower cortisol levels are linked to increased mental energy, happiness and life satisfaction. Sharper, happier and more satisfied employees are less likely to suffer burnout either intra- or interpersonally.
In fact, simply planning a vacation can have a significantly positive impact on an individual’s happiness. Actually taking the planned vacation can further assist with destressing, rejuvenating and healing the mind and body.
Why Employees Don’t Go on Vacation
While vacations can be helpful in creating happy employees and healthy work environments, many employees are hesitant to take time off. They often wrongly assume their supervisors will not appreciate them going out on leave for a week or two. They may also be concerned about returning to an overwhelming backlog of stalled assignments and missed emails.
In truth, most employers appreciate the benefits time off provide the organization. Those benefits include increased productivity, greater creativity, higher engagement and a morale boost.
Still, many people will find disconnecting from work while on vacation is easier said than done. Failing to fully leave one’s job behind while taking an extended vacation prevents many people from enjoying themselves and recharging. The result is that they return from their time off still feeling tired and in need of a break.
The Keys to a Relaxing and Restorative Vacation
Here are five tips for leaving work behind and making your next vacation more enjoyable for yourself and your travel companions.
Determine the Proper Vacation Length
It is important to find the correct answer to the question, “How long should I take off?” The right response is, of course, the number of days you need to effectively disconnect and rejuvenate.
Typically, the first day of a vacation trip is spent traveling to and settling in at your destination. Expect to spend the last day getting back home. So, focus on the true value of the days in between traveling to and from your vacation location. Research published in the Journal of Happiness Studies on May 12, 2021, shows a plurality of people feel vacations lasting 5-8 days produce the best health and wellness outcomes. Two weeks was also a leading response. Longer vacations, however, can create a sense of anxiety for some individuals.
Adopt a Vacation State of Mind
Planning a vacation can take a lot of time. Prepare yourself mentally, as well, so you can fully engage in activities that bring you happiness.
Start by acknowledging your mind and body need a break. Next, make a checklist of what you must do to prepare your home before you leave (e.g., arrange a pet sitter, stop the mail). Third, meet with your work team and delegate priorities for the time you will be away. Last, let it all go.
Accept that work will continue without you. Your vacation time will be limited. Put the necessary arrangements in place and give yourself permission to make the most of your time off.
Live in the Moment of Your Present Surroundings
Are you running late to every vacation activity because you have to return just one more work email? Do you find yourself distracted because you are posting and reading comments on social media? If so, you are probably not be getting all the health benefits of taking time off.
Ideally, you want to leave your work computer at home, uninstall work apps from your personal devices, and turn off your notifications. If you absolutely cannot do those things, commit to only working only for a short time once each day. Limit your social media posts, as well, so you are not missing little moments.
Reduce Your Reliance on Tech Tools
Plan on spending at least one tech-free day while on vacation. Constantly worrying about connectivity and the quality of the wi-fi signal takes away from your enjoyment and the enjoyment of others around you.
Vacations are a great time to experience new things and meet new people. Try turning off your GPS and asking for recommendations from locals rather than relying on online reviews. Often, the best part of a vacation is making discoveries that were never on your itinerary.
Keep an old-school travel journal, unwinding at the end of each day by capturing your thoughts and feelings on paper in your own handwriting.
Don’t Forget to Print Out and Frame a Few Photos When You Return Home
Vacationers often never look at any of the dozens or hundreds of pictures they snapped with their phones. Making time to scroll through your photos and keep physical copies of the best or most-meaningful ones will help remind you of stress-free times.
Consider these tips as you plan and take your next vacation. Ultimately, disconnecting from work can you help improve your overall physical and mental well-being.
01 December 2021
HR News Article