Take a Break: Why You Need to Use Those Vacation Days

Let’s break it down: U.S. workers are only using 77 percent of their paid time off, and the use of vacation days are at their lowest point in the past 40 years. What’s worse is that workers are forfeiting days, amounting to billions in lost benefits.

However, not taking a vacation goes beyond lost benefits – it has an impact on your mental health. Think about it; vacations are offered as time off work, and if it weren’t crucial, it wouldn’t be offered in the first place. We all need a mental health break to avoid getting burned out and over-exerting ourselves, and sometimes the weekend just won’t suffice. If you still aren’t convinced you need to cash in on those days, read on.

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Improve Your Productivity

There are only so many hours in a day, and yet we’re constantly trying to stretch ourselves thin. When is the last time you took a lunch break without thinking about work or stepped away for a 10-minute power nap? Unfortunately, work often carries over in the form of work emails and projects, commutes, and daily chores. Life doesn’t stop happening, but as much as you think otherwise, you can.

In fact, your brain is probably desperately telling you to stop. You’ve read the same sentence three times and a dull throb is beginning in your forehead. According to meditation teacher Michael Taft, you’re experiencing cerebral congestion. “In a normal working day in modern America, there’s a sense of so much coming at you at once, so much to process that you just can’t deal with it all,” Taft says.

Taking a vacation can help to clear out that congestion, enabling you to return to work refreshed, renewed, and significantly more productive now that the mental block is cleared.

Boost Your Mental Health

You’ve probably heard of a mental health break, and they’re worth it for your mental health and your happiness. Vacations are more than just sandy beaches or sleeping in – they offer benefits way beyond that. The act of simply getting there is enough to clear your head. Pop in your favorite CD, take in the scenery, and drive. Sometimes we’re so busy with our daily lives that we never take a moment to ourselves. Perhaps you’re caring for a sick parent, battling addiction, or having relationship problems.

Travel is a method of self-healing, giving you time to bring your stress and concerns to the surface and deal with them as opposed to pushing them back down to make room for your next work project.

You can also gain perspective, especially if you break out of your norm. Load up your dog and hit that trail you’ve heard has the most gorgeous views. Take a surf lesson or do yoga on the beach. Trying new things can give you a different take on your life, and perhaps spark solutions or ways to make improvements.

Make the Most of It

Deciding to take a vacation is the first step, but how you take it is just as important. You might be surprised to learn that there is a right way and a wrong way to take a vacation from work. Vacations are for unplugging from work, but depending on your job and position, completely unplugging might not be possible or even feasible. The key is to figure out just how disconnected from work you can be to minimize the frequency of work-related activities.
If possible, speak with your boss about delegating your tasks to someone else while you’re away, or having a colleague handle your calls.

Set up an automatic email and voicemail response alerting others that you are away on vacation, letting them know when you’ll return and how soon they can expect to hear back from you. Ultimately, a vacation is a vacation, and you have to tap into your self-discipline and understand that it’s okay to say no.

Those vacation days are just sitting there, collecting dust. It’s time to dust them off, cash them in, and take the mental health break you deserve. You’ll thank yourself later when you return to work rejuvenated, less stressed, and ready to tackle the world.


About the Author

Henry is the co-creator of FitWellTraveler. The site blends two of his favorite subjects (travel and health) to provide readers with information about how to get the most out of both.