Vacations; The Importance of Unplugging

With today being Canada Day, and a National holiday, I feel compelled to write this post. Who doesn’t love a good old day off, or even more alluring, a nice vacation? Vacations are meant to relax us; to help us disconnect from the everyday routine of our professional and personal lives, to experience something new and exciting, to reconnect with the people we love, to form lasting memories, and to rest. There are many types of vacations one could take; from solo world travel, to a couple’s retreat, to weekend road trips with friends, to a peaceful stay-cation, etc. Regardless of what your pleasure is, vacations are ultimately meant to help us recharge our minds and bodies, which is tremendously important to our overall health. It is unfortunate however, that many of us view vacations as a luxury, and not a necessity; only treating ourselves to a restful holiday when time and money permit. In this post, we hope to outline some of the reasons taking a vacation is so important. We believe every budget and lifestyle should allow for a well-deserved holiday, at least once per year, even if it’s a two-day stay-cation in the comfort of our own homes.

Why Vacations are So Important

1) Recharging Your Battery/ Increasing Productivity: we often use the cell phone battery analogy to illustrate the necessity of taking breaks. Without charging your cell phone, its battery will inevitably die, rendering the device entirely useless. The same applies to our bodies with regard to taking breaks. Pauses in your day work out to just about the same thing as plugging your phone in for 10 minutes; it will sustain the charge, but will ultimately need a longer session to function optimally. It’s essentially the same thing when it comes to taking a vacation. Think of it as a “deep charge-” where you recharge your battery entirely, overnight or for a 24-hour period. We need the same kind of rejuvenation to function properly in our everyday lives. Humans are of course more complex beings than phone batteries, and thus, there are other benefits to taking a rest that go beyond replenishing our energy stores. When we take a holiday, and unplug from our jobs and daily responsibilities, our minds have a way of refreshing themselves as well. As your mind rests, you may find yourself coming up with new creative ideas and a new found zest for your work. This occurs when you take regular vacations, as opposed to waiting until you are verging burnout and your body needs to recuperate in order to function at all. If you treat holidays as a yearly (at least) necessity, the time off could actually increase your productivity, clarity, and motivation, upon your return to work. There is nothing quite like a long flight to inspire insight and facilitate problem- solving; all while relaxing and looking forward to leisurely pleasures.

2) Preventative Health Measures: the best way to avoid burnout and other unpleasant mental health conditions caused by excessive work and over-commitment, is to take regular breaks. Vacations, as we previously discussed, are denser, more emotionally and physically beneficial breaks that can achieve a higher degree of recuperation than coffee breaks and weekends. We need to start conceiving of vacations as less of a luxury we allow ourselves to indulge in when we’ve worked hard enough or when the time is right, and as more of a regular investment in our health and emotional well-being.

3) Enhancing Relationships: barring the undeniable truth that “not all friends should travel together,” sharing a holiday with someone in your life can greatly strengthen that bond. Whether it be an acquaintance with a similar character and common interests, your family, a close friend, or your significant other, spending time with the people you love or feel connected to, making memories, and experiencing new and exciting adventures with them, can tremendously enhance any relationship. Let us not forget solo-travel here, as there is nothing quite like travelling on your own to inspire self-discovery and a stronger connection to and appreciation for the self… Think of the sights, smells, tastes, sounds, scenery, and sensations you revel in when you’re on holiday, and how special it feels to experience them with someone you love. To create a piece of your lives together; a memory that will be yours to share with them forever.

4) Positive Emotion: lastly, it isn’t surprising that both planning and experiencing a vacation, increase our levels of positive emotion and decrease negative ones. Studies have found increases in dopamine (the neurotransmitter associated with pleasure) and serotonin (known to be associated with positive emotions when levels are increased) in vacationers pre, during, and post-holiday mode, as well as decreases in levels of stress hormone cortisol. It doesn’t take a researcher however, to hypothesize that anticipating a vacation, or enjoying one, may contribute to increased positive mood, excitement, and essentially; happiness. These benefits though, are usually only achieved when vacations are regarded as regular and necessary events within the year. In contrast, being forced to take time off, in the form of a leave of absence from work following burnout or exhaustion, for example, does not arouse positive emotions, but rather much resistance, guilt, discouragement, and even depressive symptoms. In other words, if you wait until it’s too late, and you absolutely need some form of vacation to curtail a downward spiral, you may not reap all of the true benefits a holiday can provide to long-term health and productivity.

The next time you find yourself contemplating a holiday but worrying about finances, or your responsibilities, and insisting that a vacation simply “isn’t possible right now,” consider how much it could cost you to burn out emotionally and physically, suffering emotional difficulty, and having to cease working and caring for your dependants altogether. A vacation, although it can be of course, does not have to be an elaborate adventure through South-East Asia, or a 14 days at a luxurious 5-star resort, or Disney World with the entire family. It can be as simple and peaceful or as wild and exciting as you want it to be, and as you can afford it to be. Some of the best and most beneficial holidays could simply consist of a serene stay-cation, or a long weekend up north. There are countless ways to design a vacation that suits your individual needs and budget. We encourage you to get creative and enjoy some well-deserved, and much needed time off this summer, or anytime…

Happy Canada Day to All!