Why You Need To Take A Vacation – Now

Have you ever noticed that when you go on vacation all your stress melts away? The little things that would normally send you through the roof somehow don’t bother you so much. Spilled milk produces fewer tears.

Wouldn’t it be great if every day were more like a vacation?

This year my family and I were fortunate to be able to go to a warm-weather destination over Spring Break. As soon as I stepped off the plane and felt the tropical air wrap around me like a warm blanket my stress level started to drop off. By the time I finished my first over-priced, watered-down cocktail, I was trying to figure out how to make this experience last forever.

Back to reality. It’s great to take a break once in a while, but in the real world we need to work for a living. And that means stress. Even if you love your work, stress is usually part of the deal.

One of the reasons why vacations, staycations and the occasional day off are so important is that they give you a break from the stress of work and day-to-day life.

Michael Hyatt, a national expert on leadership and development that I follow, suggests taking a short nap during the workday. Others espouse the benefits of a few minutes of mindful meditation to reduce your stress and refocus your energy. Even if it’s just a few minutes out of your day, this time to rest and regroup is critical to your mental health and productivity.

Following are three big reasons why you need to vacation more and stress less.

First, More free time means you will be more productive at work and may be able to work longer. It seems counter-intuitive, but time off the job can make your time on the job more productive. At Strategic Coach they teach that your free days are critical to being more successful at work. These are the days where you unplug from work for a full 24 hours (don’t be checking that e-mail), allowing your stress levels to drop, and to re-energize your mind and body.

The key is to focus on things other than work that bring joy and pleasure into your life.  String together a few free days in a row and you have — Voila! — a vacation.

Second, Stress robs you of joy. Most of us like our jobs. It’s the work related stress, the day-to-day grind that we grow weary of.

A few years ago I had a client tell me that if he could walk the dog in the morning, start work at 9:00 a.m., be home for dinner with his wife, and have Fridays off in the summer he “could work forever”.

I think that’s true for most of us. If we could work some white space into our overly scheduled workdays, we could probably add a lot more days to our work.

Third, Stress will kill you. This isn’t a blog post about the health effects of stress. You already know that the cumulative effects of a lifetime stress can lead to all sorts of issues ranging from heart disease to cancer to mental illness.

My job is to help people “cross the bridge to a confident retirement”. Well, if you don’t take a vacation or work some time off into your schedule, you may never make it to retirement. And if you do, what’s on the other side of that bridge may not be so pretty.

OK, that’s pretty blunt, but you know it’s true.

Change your work ethic. Years ago I had a job where I was paid by the hour. I punched in. I took my break. I punched out. That was the routine. I remember one day when I had been on the job for about 6 hours when I asked my supervisor if it was OK if I took a break. He said, “We gave you a break when we hired you”. Although he was (sort of) joking when he said it, the underlying message was clear: You are here to work. You can rest later.

At another job they used to refer to any time not spent working as “vacation”. As in “Was that a lunch break or did you think you were you on vacation?”

We all had bad jobs when we were young. Unfortunately too many of us carry this work ethic with us for decades – or work for others who do. The result is that we become tired, burnt out and are ready to quit or “retire” as soon as we can. Working all the time might be OK for a while, but it’s not OK for a lifetime.

Act now. Retirement is a wonderful time of life, one that you have earned and deserve, but don’t wait until then to live a less-stressed, more joyful life. Give yourself permission to stay at the lake on Sunday night and go to work late on Monday; schedule a mani-pedi with your BFF on Friday afternoon; or simply go for a long walk on your lunch break.

Work a little vacation into your daily life and you will be happier and more productive at work, happier and more productive in your personal life, and won’t be in such a rush to retire before you can really afford to retire.