PLEASE take your vacation time!


Eric, a successful engineer and confessed A-type personality, always told me, “I have to take at least two weeks off when I go on vacation with my family. I take the first three days to chill from work and begin to relax, and then I need three days at the end of my vacation to prepare mentally to resume work. So that leaves me eight days to truly relax and thoroughly enjoy myself!”

Can you relate?

Covid lock-downs dramatically changed our holiday habits as virtually all of us had to cancel cherished plans to be with family and friends, go on that cruise, visit Europe, or attend a local wedding or graduation.

Now that travel feels somewhat safer for many of us; it’s time to flex our wings and venture forth again. And if you are not yet ready for national or international travel, a local stay-cation at home can be just as relaxing, if not more so.

One of my clients in California used to tell friends and family that she and her husband were going on a four-day cruise and would therefore be unavailable for that extended weekend. In reality, the couple would be at home for those days, adopting a “cruising” lifestyle without going anywhere. They would eat whatever and whenever pleased them. They had fun feeling like teenagers and going to bed whenever they chose. And they would stay in bed for as long as it pleased them. They felt free to play at home.

The success of stay-cations is in pretending you are away and not being stressed or burdened by obligations like checking and answering emails & texts or tackling that To Do list. Leaving a voice message on your phone telling callers what day you will get back to them releases any need to respond to anyone but yourself and immediate family. Becoming a tourist in your hometown can be a novel and fun experience as you might enjoy the library, restaurants, beach, or local events in a new way.

Having no contact with your place of work is part of any time off. Or should be. I have encountered many individuals, especially upper-management, who are afraid of taking their full annual quota of paid vacations. The pressure on them to perform their jobs no matter how long it takes in overtime is a burden that results in fear of losing their job or being demoted if they don’t act on all cylinders. Unfortunately, I know many conscientious but misguided individuals who will take work with them on “holiday.”

Another common complaint is that there is so much backlog of work when they return to the office that the stress of catching up creates a sense of remorse at ever having gone away.

Sian Beilock, a scientific writer reports, “Much to our detriment, America’s obsession with work means our country provides no minimum annual leave or parental leave. Our employees log more hours yearly than workers in Japan, Canada, and the U.K. Many of us feel guilty when we take even a brief respite from our jobs.”

Continuously overworking on the job is a serious health hazard, according to a new study by the World Health Organization and the International Labor Organization. The study concludes that working 55 or more hours per week is associated with an estimated 35% higher risk of a stroke and a 17% higher risk of dying from ischemic heart disease compared to working 35-40 hours a week.

Shame on the corporations who do not care enough about their employees to approve of them taking their paid leave. Instead, they are focused entirely on the bottom line of revenue. The veiled threat of being easily replaced creates an insidious fear of loss. I have heard from many individuals stuck in the business world that they consider themselves seen as a number rather than a person. This can result in resentful compliance from an employee and enormous pressure to perform well at all times.

A close friend who has been an experienced and compassionate manager for decades tells her team members most emphatically, “I want to encourage you to take your time off. I value you as an employee and want to ensure that you are happy and balanced and that your family enjoys your time away from the office. I also think it’s important that no one else will if you don’t take care of yourself. You need to be able to give your brain and your mental focus a rest.”

Now that’s what we want to hear more of!

People who take their vacations have:

  1. Lower stress. Removing yourself from stress-related activities and environments usually results in fewer physical complaints such as headaches, backaches, and insomnia. Many clients report that symptoms of tension completely disappear when on holiday, as they should.  Most importantly, it allows the nervous system to calm and settle into restfulness and peace.


  1. Less risk of heart disease. Even missing one year’s vacation is associated with a higher risk of heart disease. Our wonderful hearts tend to take on the burdens that stress exacerbates. If we keep going and going, we can quickly burn out without recognizing it because we have stopped listening to our body’s innate wisdom.


  1. Improved productivity. It takes consistent focus to be truly productive. Ernst & Young, a professional services firm, conducted a study that found that for each additional 10 hours of vacation time employees took, their year-end performance ratings improved 8 percent. In addition, frequent vacationers were significantly less likely to leave the firm.


  1. A better outlook on life. I am convinced that being happy, or at the very least, experiencing more frequent happy moments, is vital for our sense of health and wholeness. The balance for each of us may vary considerably depending on how we enjoy relaxing. Being open to positive attitude shifts can only help. Please remember that rest is an activity, and it is an intelligent move to schedule it for yourself.