Contributing Author: Kirsten Pabst, NDAA Well-being Task Force Chair
In the United States, 212 million vacation days are forfeited annually, despite proof that even planning a vacation boosts happiness and productivity, according to Allina Health, Healthy Set Go.
If you are the kind of person whose vacation bank is bubbling over like a pot of pasta, this tip is for you. I know you’ve heard it before and I know what you are thinking: “Vacations are supposed to reduce stress but I have so many important/critical/urgent tasks on my plate right now that ignoring them for a week will add heaps to my already full-stress plate.” Am I right?
So why add to your stress by taking a week off? Because your brain and body will be so much better in the long run, improving your health, productivity and longevity. Mathematically, if you take care of yourself now, you’ll be able to handle significantly more emergencies in the long term.
In Importance of taking a vacation, author Kathryn Isham, PsyD LP, describes seven health benefits of vacation, including improved physical and mental health, better relationships and increased overall happiness. Isham writes:
“According to a Gallup study, people who “always make time for regular trips” had a 68.4 score on the Gallup-Heathway’s Well-Being Index, in comparison to a 51.4 Well-Being score for less frequent travelers. One study found that three days after vacation, subjects’ physical complaints, quality of sleep, and mood had improved compared to before vacation. These gains were still present five weeks later, especially in those who had more personal time and overall satisfaction during their vacation.”
Relax muscles are often underdeveloped and — like your biceps — need to be exercised. Slowing down may require practice because weaning the body and the brain away from a daily cortisol hit is an adjustment.
Go somewhere familiar or a new destination for fishing, beaching, mountaineering, exploring ruins…the options are boundless. Go alone. Meet friends. Bring the kids. Or not. Observe the details of the place — the colors, sounds, cuisine, and scents and let some of that goodness seep into your core, sans email-checking. You, your family, your office and the victims you serve will all reap the rewards.
Manager’s tip for today: check your employees’ vacation banks. Most offices have a “use it or lose it” policy. People who forfeit vacation time every year — usually stellar performers and hard-core litigators — are most at risk to “lose it,” suffer burnout or leave the business. Assure your valuable employees that taking vacation will not make them look less committed but will, to the contrary, strengthen their roots within your organization.
Kirsten Pabst chairs NDAA’s Well-being Task Force and serves at the County Attorney for Missoula County, Montana.