Expert Advice: Take Time Off to Reconnect and Rejuvenate!

Sunglasses on beach to take time off for mental health

Time Off Can Improve Your Mental Health! Photo credit: Asim Alnamat negativespace.com

This post is publishing on July 4th — so Happy Fourth of July to readers in the US!

It’s July and it’s the middle of summer is here in the US and many parts of the Northern Hemisphere; it’s the middle of winter in the Southern Hemisphere.

Whatever the season where you live, my advice is to Take Time Off!

 

 

“I think sometimes the best training is to rest.”

 

Cristiano Ronaldo (Portuguese Footballer)

Time Off is NOT the Same as Wasting Time!

In most countries, there are times of the year in which people plan time away from their work. In the US, the summer season is a popular time for vacations when teachers and kids are off from school. The weather is usually warm – downright hot in some areas of the country. Summer has a connotation of kicking back and relaxing. Summertime … and the livin’ is easy” – so goes the popular song from the opera Porgy and Bess.

When we visit family in Europe, we try to go when my family can take time off usually in July or August. I love that they make sure to take this time – Urlaub in German – because so often in our lives we didn’t take time off for a vacation. Work superseded all else. I know I’m not alone. 

There are many reasons for why Americans don’t take time off. But I look back and wish I had scheduled time off to reflect, relax, rejuvenate, and reconnect, not just for one big vacation, but for shorter getaways multiple times per year. Work cannot be everything! You need to take time off and be a good role model of work-life balance for your family. 

Many working Americans think that vacation is a dirty word – but for our own physical and mental health and the health of our families, we need to stop that false thinking! Taking time off can help you decrease your stress levels, increase your productivity, creativity, and mental acuity, as well as reconnect with friends and loved ones. Studies show that spending time together strengthens bonds and relationships (e.g., marriage, family ties, friendships). 

Photo credit: negativespace.com

Photo credit: negativespace.com

“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.”

 

John Lubbock

 

(British Statesman)

American Workers, Unused Paid Time Off, and “Vacation-Shaming”

Multiple studies have shown that Americans work more than their European counterparts (Alesina, Glaeser, & Sacerdote, 2006; Steverman, 2016) and don’t take their vacation days (Ahmed, 2014; Scharbner, 2017).  

Steverman (2016) reported on a study that showed Americans working 25% more than Europeans. Of the 19 countries studied (the US plus 18 European countries), Americans averaged over 26 hours per person per week. In the 1970s, Americans averaged just over 25 hours per person per week (Alesina et al., 2006).

In 2016, over 50% of Americans lost unused paid time off (Zillman, 2016). The change in the number of vacation days used from 2015 to 2016 has slightly increased — possibly a good sign heralding a change in attitude toward taking time off (Zillman, 2016)?

Well, guess what? Work will always be there, but your family and friends will not.

And I know you do important work, but even presidents and world leaders need time off to decompress. I read an interesting piece in the Huffington Post about “vacation-shaming” – this piece was specific to how people criticize our Presidents for taking vacations, but the points are applicable to you and me, too!  I remember reading that President Clinton ordered his staff to take time off because he knew how important it was to take time away from work! 

So don’t be vacation-shamed! Take Time Off! Do it for yourself. Do it for your Family. Regardless, be intentional and be mindful of what you do during that time off. Be “Present” and savor the moments so you can make memories. 

Whatever you chose to do, whether it’s intentional leisure, working on a hobby, taking a hike, or reading a book, or spending time with family or friends, make your time off something that gives you joy and makes you happy!

I’ll leave you with a quote from Ralph Marston, an American writer:

“Rest when you’re weary. Refresh and renew yourself, your body, your mind, your spirit. Then get back to work.” 

 

Ralph Marston (American Writer) 

References

Ahmed, A. S. (2014, August 12). It’s time to stop vacation-shaming our presidents. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/08/05/presidential-vacations-obama-bush_n_5642452.html

Alesina, A. F., Glaeser, E. L., & Sacerdote, B. (2006). Work and leisure in the United States and Europe: Why so different? National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER): NBER Macroeconomics Annual 2005, 20, 1-99. Retrieved from http://www.nber.org/books/gert06-1

Steverman, B. (2016, October 16). Americans work 25% more than Europeans, study finds. Bloomberg.com. Retrieved from https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-10-18/americans-work-25-more-than-europeans-study-finds

Zillman, C. (2017, May 23). Americans are still terrible at taking vacations. Fortune.com. Retrieved from http://fortune.com/2017/05/23/vacation-time-americans-unused/