To outsiders, Americans seem chronically vacation-deprived. Workers in the United States get less time off than workers in other developed nations, and the U.S. is the only developed nation that does not legally mandate vacation days or sick leave. Many employees take matters into their own hands and call in sick when they’re not, often referred to as a “mental health day.” And while some employees might feel guilty about deceiving their bosses, there’s ample evidence that vacation time is good for your health and a periodic break can help you recharge and refocus.
It’s not just the time spent at the office that takes away from family time. Long commutes, the exhaustion of a stressful day, and working from home all make it challenging to get family time during the work week. People who spend more time with their families generally are happier and feel closer, and when a job interferes with this time, it can upset the family dynamic and lead to relationship problems. Even a single mental health day can give you time to reconnect with your family, and a week-long vacation can rekindle closeness between spouses, parents, and children, as well as with extended family members.
The competing demands of work and family can leave people with limited time to pursue hobbies, spend time alone, and relax. A day off from work while most other people are working provides an opportunity for duty-free personal time. This can give you an opportunity to discover new hobbies, work on a much-anticipated project, or simply enjoy a temporary respite from stress and constant obligation. A brief mental health day can give you time to meditate, walk the dog, start a new exercise routine, or cook a nutritious meal.
A Break from Stress
Stress doesn’t just feel bad. It can make you sick. People with high levels of stress report more aches and pains, more mental health issues, and more minor infections than people who have relatively low stress levels. A break from the stress of work—and the added stress of balancing work with the rest of your life—can give your body a chance to recover from the effect of chronic stress, and can give you an opportunity to discover new coping skills. People who have leisure time have lower blood pressure and are less likely to become overweight. People report feeling physically healthier during their vacations and are more satisfied with their lives during breaks from work. Indeed, a growing body of evidence suggests that between health problems, mental health days, and productivity/creativity lulls resulting from stress, it may be more costly for employers not to provide ample time off.
Better Mental Health
People who take regular vacations and mental health days report being happier than people who have no time off or very limited time off. Even a single mental health day can increase motivation because it provides people with the opportunity to gain new perspectives on work projects. The leisure time that a day off or a week-long vacation opens up has a powerful impact. People who have leisure time report having stronger networks of friends and family, feel more connected to the people in their lives, and are more spiritual than people with little time off.
- Johanson, M. (2012, August 28). These countries get the most vacation days. International Business Times. Retrieved from http://www.ibtimes.com/these-countries-get-most-vacation-days-hint-america-isnt-list-758021
- The benefits of taking time off. (2011, August 17). US News. Retrieved from http://www.usnews.com/science/articles/2011/08/17/the-benefits-of-taking-time-off
- Wilson, B. (n.d.). Relax! Vacations are good for your health. NPR. Retrieved from http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=111887591
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