We often think of vacation as something that's negotiable and I'm here to tell you that it’s not. Research shows that we actually take a lot less time off than the rest of the developed world. Limiting vacation time can impair our work performance, our relationships and our overall mental and physical health. Are you in need of a vacation? Continue reading to find out more.
Studies show that North Americans along with Japan take less vacation than most other developed nations. In Canada, all provinces allow their residents to take 2 weeks paid vacation (with the exception of Saskatchewan where residents can take up to 3 weeks). In the U.S., law-makers make no provision for any paid leave. So how many of us take vacation and how long do we take vacation for? According to the vacation deprivation study by Expedia, Americans took an average of 12 days off in 2016 while Canadians took 14 vacation days. It appears that many of us feel guilty or worried about taking time off. We worry that others might judge us for "slacking off" or that we might be putting our job security on the line. But without the necessary time to recharge we can be putting ourselves at risk for physical and mental health problems. Do you think you need a vacation? Read below to find out...
5 Sure Signs you NEED a vacation
Do any of these fit? It might be time to schedule some time off...
1. You've got no extra time
BUSY, BUSY, BUSY... You find yourself running around like a headless chicken. You're so busy and don't know how to get on top of your schedule. You feel like you're running from one obligation to another. If you could add more hours to the day you would, but you can't so you desperately try to keep up. You may feel like you're on an ever-increasing treadmill that accelerates whenever you feel like you've got control. When it starts to spin, that's a sure sign that you need to get off life's treadmill for a little bit.
2. You're less productive
Are you feeling like things are piling up? It might feel like you're spending more and more time working but getting less and less done. You might find yourself getting impatient with co-workers and feeling like you'll never reach the end of everything you need to get done. The truth of the matter is - you won't and that's good - the need to get work done is what keeps us employed. Rest assured there will always be another project, another client to serve, another request or demand from your boss. If you start dreading going into work because it feels endless then this may be a sure sign that you need some time off.
3. Family and friends are complaining
Your mother might be complaining that you never call her and sometimes she might just be a typical mom... However, if other friends and family are commenting that they never get to see you or that you're so busy, perhaps it’s time to take a look at your life. If you live with your family, you might notice that there's more tension in the house or that you're fighting a lot more than usual. Even though you might be feeling o.k. you may be unknowingly neglecting your relationships. If there's been a noticeable increase in conflict with people in your life, this may be a sign that you need to take a step back and reassess what's going on. It may be a sign that you need vacation, so that you can slow down and savour the relationships with those closest to you.
4. Your health habits are slipping
Maybe you're not getting your full night of sleep because your mind is always racing or you feel like you've got too much to do. Perhaps you're engaging in some unhealthy behaviours you were trying to cut back on – maybe you're smoking or drinking more than you'd like. Maybe you're not eating well balanced meals and find yourself going from skipping meals to binge eating. All of these indicate that your system is trying to cope with stress by getting you to consume things that will give your system a quick fix. While you might feel better in the moment, these habits can quickly deteriorate your overall well-being and mental health. If you find yourself starting to get into these habits frequently, consider these as flashing neon signs that you need a break from work.
5. You feel no desire to do anything fun
Got invited to go to a BBQ? Perhaps a jog with your friend? Are you avoiding doing any activities other than what is absolutely necessary? Maybe you don't feel like doing any of the things you used to enjoy or you don't have any energy to do anything after work. If you're feeling like your motivation for anything other than work is low, this may be a sign that you need some vacation time. Taking distance from work can provide you with the necessary time to fill your life with other activities that are important to you. Doing leisure activities that you enjoy can increase your feelings of being fulfilled and can provide you with an outlet to release stress. If you find yourself having no motivation altogether and are feeling depressed or have trouble simply getting out of bed, you may want to read up on signs of depression.
What are the consequences of not taking vacation?
While you might think to yourself that vacation is optional, I'm here to have you reconsider that thought. When we're at work grinding it out during the week, many of us are likely to engage in overtime. This cuts into our leisure time and limits our ability to recharge for the weeks ahead. As a result of being overburdened we're less likely to want to go out and spend time with friends and family. All of this can lead to feelings of being overwhelmed and can lead us into a cycle of being unproductive and feeling increasingly guilty. Over time, you may place yourself at risk of burnout, depression or anxiety.
Taking vacation is an essential part of learning to manage your time so that you can recharge. Students and children have vacations built into their schedules between semesters and school years. When you enter the workforce, you become in charge of scheduling vacation. No one ever won a medal or Nobel Peace Prize for never taking time off; in fact, not taking time off can impair your ability to work and THAT could put your job security at risk. While you might feel guilty taking a few days off, I promise you the guilt will wear off faster than you anticipated and relaxation will kick in. Don't consider vacation to be an indulgence, it’s not - I don't need to have a Ph.D. to tell you that vacation time is a necessity in our fast paced world. But since I do, if you find yourself suffering from any or all of the above, let me prescribe you some much needed time off. Feel free to share this link with co-workers, friends and family.
If you think that you're feeling worse than what's been described above or have tried taking a vacation and it hasn't worked to relieve your feelings of stress, therapy might be helpful to teach tools to manage the stress in your life.