5 reasons you need to take a vacation
It's time you got serious about taking that vacation. Here are five reasons why travelling is good for your health, according to science.
Do you feel like you're the only one who can do your job? Are you stressed and need a vacation but can't take one because you don't have the time or money? You're not alone. Due to various obstacles, 75% of Indians feel vacation-deprived — which is the highest in the world — according to a 2018 report released by online travel portal, Expedia. Did you know that long working hours and little leisure also lead to poor health? "Sometimes not taking a vacation does more harm than good, because too many hours in the office can cause you to burnout," says Mumbai-based clinical psychologist, Dr Shilpa Aggarwal.
Dr Aggarwal blames burnout on the unrealistically high expectations of both employees and employers, in general, as well as the "always on" nature of work in today's society. Dr Aggarwal notes that much of these expectations are self-imposed, like the idea that we should never really disconnect at night or while on vacation. "We are in unprecedented times, where the culture constantly praises hard work and being busy. Work comes in at all hours, and it can be hard to create boundaries that keep it contained and allow for proper rest and renewal. For younger people, in particular, it can be hard to say no, especially in competitive jobs or industries," says Dr Aggarwal.
Can vacations help avoid burnout?
The "always-on" mentality isn't getting us ahead at work. "Workers who take little time off are considered more dedicated. But considering productivity goes down, when people are overworked, it's simply a myth that people who don't take vacation are better workers," says Dr Aggarwal. She points out that truly disconnecting on a vacation is one way to counteract burnout. When you take a vacation, you give your mind a chance to be creative and refresh, she says.
Dr Aggarwal notes that among people who take vacation, some come back feeling rested, rejuvenated, and reconnected with their families, while others believe that their overall health improves after a vacation getaway. She says that some also report having a more positive outlook. "Overwhelmingly, travellers say they feel less stressed, more energised, and more connected to loved ones. Taking a vacation also has intangible benefits, like making us more interesting, engaging people and better storytellers, as travel helps broaden our understanding of the world and leads to more empathy," says Dr Aggarwal.
How to plan a vacation that is actually restorative and relaxing
A longer vacation may be better for your mental health than a weekend off, according to Dr Aggarwal. You may be able to wind down on weekends, but when you carve out a week or more for a vacation, you are able to really get out of work mode. You can catch up on sleep and work on getting rid of habits that tend to contribute to stress. "Studies show that you need at least six consecutive days to get the full and lasting effect of even taking a vacation," says Dr Aggarwal.
But while a week or two away from the office can certainly feel restorative in the short-term, Dr Aggarwal warns that a person's self-reported feelings of burnout could bounce back to their pre-vacation levels within weeks of taking a break. "Burnout isn’t just caused by working too many hours or juggling too many responsibilities — it can also be the result of a deeper unhappiness with your job, whether because you lack autonomy, feel undervalued, work in a toxic environment, or worry that your values are in conflict with those of your employer," says Dr Aggwarwal. A vacation may help you gain a temporary sense of distance from those problems, but it won’t solve them.
"If the job is truly burning you out, more time for reflection might create more stress, as you get out of your day-to-day routine and have enough distance to fully comprehend the problem," says Dr Aggarwal. According to her, the solution to work stress is not a trip to the beach or a hill station, but an ongoing effort to evaluate the everyday circumstances that take a toll on our physical and mental health. That said, whether or not you are experiencing work burnout, Dr Aggarwal suggests you take a breath, and plan a vacation. "Taking a vacation isn't a luxury — it's essential to your well-being. Relaxing and getting away from your worries — both personal and professional — can help lower anxiety, heart rate, and blood pressure, which can in turn lower the risk of heart disease and chronic illness caused by stress," says Dr Aggarwal.
Here are some research-backed reasons for you to go ahead and treat yourself to a little vacation.
1. It will relieve your stress.
Sometimes to let go of all your life stressors, you have to remove yourself for a while. A study done by The American Psychological Association showed that travelling aides in our ability to handle stress by removing us from sources of anxiety and difficult emotions. Something about the break just teaches you that it's all going to be okay.
2. It keeps your heart healthy.
Taking trips is actually good for your heart. In a long-term cardiovascular study, called The Framingham Heart Study, which began in 1948, female participants, aged 45-64, were asked how often they went on vacations. When the study looked at the effects of vacations from following the subjects over a nine-year period, they found a positive correlation between more frequent vacations and longer, healthier lives. The study reported that skipping even one year’s vacation time can be associated with increased risk of heart disease.
3. It enhances creativity.
Having a bout of artist's block? Get out of town. Studies show that there is a link between taking vacations and activating your creativity. In part, this is simply because you are experiencing and seeing new things and new cultures, but it really can be a catalyst for great work, as it actually allows your brain to make new pathways and connections. "When you allow yourself to relax, you're able to open other creative parts of your mind that you may not be using on a day-to-day basis. You can bring this inspiration, and maybe some new ideas, back with you when you return to reality," says Dr Aggarwal.
4. It makes you more open-minded.
Travelling can improve your cultural awareness, and if you travel with family, friends, or a significant other, it can help you generate positive feelings toward the people in your life. Studies say these effects continue after returning home, which can overall improve your relationships in the long run. The travel site Momondo did a study that showed that 76 per cent of people surveyed say that travelling has made them more tolerant, trusting, and accepting of others.
5. Our brains are hard-wired to be happier near water.
It's true. Water calms us, connects us to the world, and gives us clarity. So keep that clear blue water in mind when making your travel plans.