Why you need a vacation

Being stuck at home for a year doesn’t count as a break.

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It might seem counterintuitive, but after a year plus of staying away from your workplace, you probably need a vacation. 

Even if you’ve been out of work for a substantial amount of time during the pandemic, you probably need a vacation. 

There’s nothing relaxing about being unemployed, underemployed or working from home (or is it living at work?) when you’d rather be at your workplace with your work friends, all of your stuff and your favorite lunch spot around the corner. 

In fact, this year “off” has been fraught with disruptions, surprises, fear, grief, anxiety, uncertainty and so much more. 

Who doesn’t need a break from that? 

Now that jobs are available or your job is inching back toward normal, take a breath. Maybe don’t rush back until you’ve had a chance to recover from your pandemic experience. 

Break benefits 

The physical and mental health benefits of vacations and even long weekends off are well documented. Time off from deadlines, expectations, long days, responsibilities and—sometimes—the boss and colleagues can enormously reduce stress and anxiety. In one Swedish study, researchers found that doctors prescribed far less anti-depressant medication every year during July when the Swedes typically take their vacations. 

Reduced stress can reduce the risk for all kinds of illnesses, from heart disease to diabetes to asthma to stomach problems. It also can be an antidote to anxiety and depression. 

Work martyr syndrome 

But it’s not just your body and mind that can benefit from time off of work. It’s your work, too. And your relationships. 

Employees who blow off vacations because they would rather be at work, feel they have too much work to do or believe their businesses can’t survive for a week without them suffer from what the U.S. Travel Association calls “work martyr syndrome” because they often work at the expense of their home lives. 

Those who take family vacations, on the other hand, tend to vividly remember those outings into adulthood, even more than birthday celebrations or school events, according to a survey by the association. 

Likewise, vacations can leave an employee refreshed and ready to work. Stepping away from stress and a familiar routine can inspire, stretch and relax an employee, which can boost creativity, spark ideas and change attitudes. 

You deserve it 

If you’re reluctant to ask for a vacation—or to take one that’s coming to you—because you feel like it’s a bad time, given the year you’ve had, you might need to sell yourself on the idea that it’s the right time, precisely for the same reason. 

 Here are five easy steps to help you find time for you this summer: 

  1. Create a plan that will help you achieve your goal: time off. Study your calendar from the past couple of months and for the next couple, and you’ll either find dips in activity or potential triggers for burnout. If you know you’re about to enter a period of working every weekend, plan for a pre-emptive few days off ahead of time to recharge your batteries, and then schedule a celebratory mini-break for afterward to recover. 
  1. Look for opportunities. Does business in your industry grind to a halt every August? Is there a lull after the rush to meet end-of-fiscal-year deadlines? When the boss is on vacation, do a lot of others take time off or spend the time taking it easy at work? Those are great times to be absent. Still don’t see the perfect time? Keep looking. It’s important to make time for breaks. 
  1. Listen and observe. Your body knows when you need a break. Your brain knows, too. Your emotions will tell you. Your co-workers might mention it. Your family definitely will. Pay attention. If you’re the boss, you have something extra to pay attention to: burnout and weariness among staff who really need time off. 
  1. Ask for what you need. Don’t fool yourself: Nobody is immune to burnout. The longer you go without any meaningful time off—sans deadlines, emails and work calls—the more likely you are to start making mistakes and feeling dissatisfied with your job. Believe it or not, your boss knows that. Use every day of your vacation time every year. You, your boss and your organization will all benefit. 
  1. Be grateful. Do you work for a company that offers paid time off? Not everybody does. Can your family pay for a trip to the beach, mountains or grandma’s house every summer? Count yourself lucky. When you return from your vacay, pay it forward by channeling your refreshed mind and rested body into your work. 

Dr. Cindy McGovern, known as the “First Lady of Sales,” speaks and consults internationally on sales, interpersonal communication and leadership. She is the author of Every Job Is a Sales Job: How to Use the Art of Selling to Win at Work. Dr. Cindy is the CEO of Orange Leaf Consulting, a sales management and consulting firm. For more information, please visit, www.drcindy.com and connect with her on Twitter @1stladyofsales and on LinkedIn 

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