Going on Vacation? Good for You (Literally)

The last couple of years have changed us — from adapting to remote work, to learning new phrases like “social distancing” and “masking up,” to living with an ever-present and unpredictable global virus. And beyond the physical toll, COVID has taken away much of what we have always enjoyed in life, but likely taken for granted: live events, dining out, milestone celebrations, and traveling.

That last one? Well, it’s quite a bit harder now. International destinations and the airlines that serve them now require proof of vaccination, negative COVID tests before departure, a barrage of paperwork, and a non-negotiable masking policy. But despite all the precautionary measures and inconveniences, leaving the country was the best decision I’ve made in a while.

For many of us, I think it’s tempting to keep our heads down and focus on the work at hand — especially when the “what we do” really matters and urgent deadlines loom. But, I’m here to tell you that stepping away is equally as important.

You’ve probably heard the one about oxygen masks. When you’re on a plane, the flight attendant explains that in the case of an emergency, you need to put your mask on before you help your companion.

Time away, and travel, if you have the opportunity, are the oxygen you need to continue to work at your peak. Writing this after spending a week away, I can attest to the benefits of les vacances firsthand. Holidays are more than “nice to haves”; they are “need to haves.” For example, they …

1. Improve your mental health. Whether you need to clear your head after completing a challenging project or just take a break from your daily activities, getting away can make a big difference. Studies show that taking a break can decrease anxiety and depression, and increase your overall sense of well-being.

2. Also improve your physical health. Simply taking a break can help decrease your blood pressure and decrease your risk of heart disease and heart attacks. An active vacation can help you tone up or lose weight (just skip the piña coladas by the pool). And, as you age, travel reduces the risk of dementia too.

3. Provide joy before, during, and after. Here’s good news. Planning a vacation can be almost as fun as actually going on the vacation. And returning — refreshed — to share pictures, stories, and souvenirs extends that happiness even longer.

4. Increase your creativity. When you’re exposed to new sights, sounds, cultures, foods, and languages, you become open to new ideas, more creative, and more productive. Meeting new people expands our minds and helps us address any unconscious bias.

5. Strengthen relationships. Discovering a new place with a familiar person (spouse, friend, sibling, or in my case, my college freshman daughter) gives you time to reconnect and create memories you’ll cherish long after the trip together has ended.

6. Provide much-needed rest. For many of us, when our work and home lives collided back in 2020, our workdays grew longer. Add to that the stress we’ve all been under, and you can understand why sleep deprivation is a common complaint. Vacations are the perfect excuse to sleep in or take a nap.

7. Allow you to unplug. We’ve all heard about the health risks of too much “screen time.” A vacation allows you to minimize (or even eliminate!) the dings associated with your email/phone/social media and tune in to the real world, nature, or new surroundings.

Pandemic travel restrictions and safety concerns made vacations problematic during the past two years. And studies have shown that fewer people are using their time away to … well, get away. Even less remain entirely unplugged while on vacation.

I encourage you to defy these statistics. Schedule time away, plan your next holiday, and leave work behind. You’ll be glad you did.

Bon Voyage.

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