Work is important, but sometimes, without even noticing, we elevate its importance to unhealthy levels. And when that happens, we can begin wondering if we are cut out for our jobs or even in the right career. Balancing a good work ethic with a need for rest (actual rest, unplugging from all responsibilities for a time) is not easy. Our phones can bring constant reminders of emails and messages. Can we silence notifications or even turn off our phones? Sounds a little scary, right? However, we all need a time-out now and again from daily responsibilities (especially during the joys of summer!).
The opportunity to lower stress and create lasting memories far outweighs crossing things off your to-do list. If you are experiencing symptoms like insomnia, physical exhaustion, or headaches, it may be time to cash in that PTO. Maybe you are in the right career and just need a breather or perhaps you need to reevaluate some things, but that can only happen if you make the time to rest and recharge. Here are a few signs it may finally be time to take a break.
We make excuses on why we can’t take that break, don’t we? We dream of captivating locations and wonder what it would be like to finally see long awaited destinations, but then we look at our ever-growing to-do list. And the dream becomes a distant memory.
The Center for Economic and Policy Research has gone so far as to call the U.S. the “No Vacation Nation,” which, as the WHO describes, results in exhaustion, cynicism, and decreased productivity across the workforce.
The American Psychological Association found that American workers across the board saw heightened burnout in 2021. According to their survey, 79% of employees had recently experienced work-related stress, including lack of interest, motivation, or energy (26%) and lack of effort at work (19%). Meanwhile, 36% reported cognitive weariness, 32% reported emotional exhaustion, and an astounding 44% reported physical fatigue—a 38% increase since 2019.
More so than not, many professionals in today’s workforce could do with a vacation.
When it comes to physical side effects, a good place to start is looking at your sleep habits. The National Library of Medicine suggests that chronic stress interferes with the complicated neurological and hormonal system that regulates sleep. Whether you can’t fall asleep or are waking up before the crack of dawn, disruptions in your recommended zzz’s can be a red flag something’s imbalanced.
Some research suggests stress hormones can also affect appetite, causing people to be less hungry on average when under pressure and more hungry when stress dissipates.
Everyone’s body handles stress differently, which is why talking to your doctor can be key. But if you are noticing significant struggles in your sleep, increased headaches, or even stomach issues, stress from your job could be the culminating factor.
Take a minute to look at your daily routine. Are you avoiding tasks and projects? Do you find yourself endlessly scrolling on your phone, constantly refilling your coffee cup, or answering non-work-related messages? It’s as if all motivation has evaporated from inside you. Lack of focus and possible depression seep in, often faster than we realize.
Or maybe you are trying to juggle too much. You get one more email that, in itself is a simple request, but finally throws you over the edge. Every little request has become stressful. If that’s you, stepping away from your desk for a week may be just the ticket.
The factors of physical and or mental struggles from burnout can be vast but keep asking yourself questions if reactions seems off. Asking for help or making time for a break is often the best way to take care of yourself (and others), and here’s how a vacation plays into that.
We can’t operate on auto pilot forever. Psychologists say that adding unfamiliar places and activities can help individuals be fully present in life, and truly “wake up.” And according to a research study in The Journal of Positive Psychology, meditation and vacations have positive side effects that work in tandem with one another. People who engaged in both reported decreased levels of stress.
One scientific report found that spending at least two hours a week in nature (parks, woods, and beaches) supports good health. These environments help us relax. In fact, another author’s research found that MRIs and PET scans show that the “aha” moments in life come when people are in a relaxed state of mind, which is why light bulb ideas often happen on a walk, on vacation, or even in the shower.
A study completed by the Boston Consulting Group found professionals who were required (yes, you read that correctly, required) to take vacation time had increased productivity when they returned to work. Further still, those same employees reported tasks took less effort than before they left for their trip. Productivity increases job satisfaction, and when you’re happy at your job, you’re a better employee too.
Are you ready to pull the trigger and take that vacation? We hope so. Life is busy, chaotic, and sometimes just plain hard. But unplugging and exploring somewhere new (or even just enjoying your city without work responsibilities on the brain) can breathe life into your soul. Maybe you’ll come back renewed and ready to work, or maybe you will realize you are ready for a new career path. Slow down reevaluate, and enjoy your PTO this summer.
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