October 18, 2013

Why You Cannot Afford Not to Vacation

Written by Erin Cardwell.

The files on your desk are stacking up, the calls are pouring in, and the last thing on your mind is taking a vacation. At the first suggestion of spending a few days or even a week (gasp) out of the office, you roll your eyes while you think of the stressful catch-up you would be faced with upon your return. If this sounds like a fairly accurate description of yourself, here are a few reasons you may want to reconsider your attitude towards a physical and mental retreat.

1) Travel reduces negative stress

Let’s start with the obvious. There are several studies that have proven travel to reduce negative stress. Lower blood pressures, heart rates, and levels of epinephrine (a stress hormone) are all proven health benefits of travel. Warmer and sunnier destinations are especially beneficial for recuperation and improving sleep quality. But do we really need surveys to tell us how rejuvenated we feel when returning from a vacation? Even if your time away is packed with a busy itinerary, the pressure that can result from a lot of sightseeing, language translation, and/or navigation of strange places is a positive one and cognitively seen as a challenge or thrill rather than a threat or worry. Like a good workout or heart-pounding roller coaster ride, the positive stress that results from travel is beneficial to your health. Coupled with the reduced negative stress that comes with being away from usual responsibilities, action-packed itineraries can greatly benefit your overall well-being. So, whether you are lounging on the beach in the Caribbean or pounding the pavement in a bustling European city, expect to be rewarded physically and mentally for your time away from home.

2) Travel increases productivity

“Making yourself available 24/7 does not create peak performance; recreating the boundaries that technology has eroded does.” – Edward Hallowell, MD. Harvard Medical School

“Writer’s block”, “runner’s knee”, and “burnout” are terms from various professions that mean the same thing- overwork. We all reach a point where we need to walk away from a project or task to regain focus and vigor. Think of your vacation as an investment in yourself. The return on this investment is a happier, healthier, and more productive you! According to a study done by YParnership, “travelers experience a 25% increase in performance on vigilance tests after returning from vacation – travelers 45 or older show a 50% increase in performance.” New places, cultures, and perspectives can refresh creative thinking and problem solving skills. There are several studies showing that higher productivity, intellectual functioning, and efficiency are in direct correlation with increased vacation times.

3) Travel can make you more attractive

Everyone looks better with the healthy glow associated with a fresh tan from a tropical vacation, but the corporal perks of trip-taking do not stop there. Most people diet and exercise in an effort to look their best on their next vacation and/or to keep up with an active itinerary. Having something to strive to look and feel good for above and beyond average daily life is always a great incentive and added push to shed those pounds or build those muscles. Once en route, travelers are also likely to be more active and snack less than when at home. And of course, you’ll look your best with the content smile you’ll be donning as a result of the reduced negative stress and increased happiness you experience, making you more approachable and, consequently, a better team-player.

The list of benefits associated with travel goes on and on. Health and wellness expert and member of the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition, Dr. Ian Smith said, “Vacations will greatly improve your quality of life. Americans are always on the go and that rapid pace has serious effects on the deterioration of the mind and body. I hope the findings of [recent research on travel will] inspire Americans to take their wellbeing into their own hands and take the time to get away.” So, stop staring at the palm-tree background on your computer and invest in the real thing- the return on your investment is sure to be a positive one!

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