Thrive at Work by Working Less: 5 Reasons to Use All of Your Vacation Time

Some workers live for vacation—in fact, there is nothing they’d like better than more paid time off. Others, however, take the bare minimum and leave the rest of their PTO days to waste. While this choice may seem like the “hard worker” choice, not taking your vacation time can actually have a detrimental effect on your productivity as a worker and your personal life. Here are some reasons why you should use all your vacation time every year:

Work Vacation life

1. It’s good for your mental health

As much as you love your job, it’s good to take a step back and see what else is out there in the big wide world. In fact, neuroscientists have discovered that constant exposure to stress (aka: the workplace) can trigger anxiety and depression, while vacations help the brain “heal” by temporarily removing those feelings of chronic pressure and obligations. Removing yourself from the office grind, even if it’s just for a “staycation” around your hometown, can help refresh your mindset and increase feelings of overall happiness.

2. It’s good for your physical health

Your mind isn’t the only part of your body that benefits from vacation time. Working constantly with few or no breaks can actually increase your risk of heart disease. Corporate Wellness Magazine cites a nine-year study that showed men who didn’t take a vacation multiple years in a row were 30 percent more likely to suffer a heart attack than those men who took at least a one-week vacation per year. Your body simply isn’t designed to be under stress 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Don’t underestimate the physical benefits of relaxation.

3. You spend less time playing catch-up

If you’re not entirely convinced vacation will help keep you healthier for longer, think of it this way: Constant stress wears your body down, leading to physical issues like insomnia, high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, and an overall lowered immune system. This means that taking smaller, pre-planned vacations can help reduce the number of sick days you’ll likely need if your body is continually overworked. In other words, you can spend less time catching up on all the work you missed during your sick days, which in turn can help you feel less overwhelmed.

4. You avoid burnout

“Burnout” is one of those things everyone hears about and most workers experience at least once in their professional lives. While sometimes a major project or unexpected deadline causes it, for many workers it’s a way of life. But suffering from chronic high levels of stress can not only result in damage to your mental and physical health (see above), it can also seriously undermine your productivity and satisfaction as a worker. Don’t let burnout cause you to make a rash decision at work that might jeopardize your future—especially not when something as simple as using all your vacation time could help you come back feeling recharged and reenergized.

5. It’s good for your relationships

It doesn’t matter how important your job is: Chances are that on your deathbed, you’re not going to be happily reminiscing about how much time you spent at the office. Most of us will treasure the people and the relationships we built over the course of our lives. Setting aside time for family and friends will result in lasting memories that, at the end of the day, are what make life worth living. So go ahead and use all your vacation time in order to make the most of those bonds and appreciate the relationships you have now.

For many workers, guilt plays a big part in not taking advantage of all their vacation days. How will your coworkers manage without you? What if there’s an office crisis only you can handle? But being armed with the facts (and a pre-vacation plan!) can help mitigate that feeling, so you can better reap the physical and mental rewards of your time out of the office.

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