Use Your Vacation Time! Here’s How Taking One Day Off Can Help Your Mental Health

I think we all need to take some time off. One of the worst things about being an adult is that summer vacation no longer exists, and we don’t get that wonderful break we all need. 

While we may not be able to take months off for vacation, we all have opportunities to take our vacation time. And yet, we don’t. Do you ever wonder why it’s so hard to take time off? Me, too.

What Is Taking Time Off Work?

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Americans are known for being workaholics. We work long hours, we don’t take our paid time off, and we define ourselves by our job titles. We are a nation of humans doing, not humans being. While the coronavirus has allowed more people to shine a light on the importance of taking breaks and creating a healthy work/life balance, “since March of 2020, an overwhelming majority of U.S. employees have shortened, postponed, or canceled their vacation time.” Another recent study found that 26% of the respondents had never taken two weeks off for vacation. 

Why don’t we take our vacation days when we know they’ll be good for us? Why don’t we take time off when we need it? I think we’re all a little scared of what will happen when we leave work, even though vacation days are often included in our contracts. Some people avoid taking their vacation days because they want to get ahead and always be on top of everything. Others are afraid that their job might replace them if they try to use time off. And others like to store up their vacation time like a chipmunk stores up nuts so that, one day, they’ll take a paid month off of work…but do they actually ever end up doing that? 

While there’s validity to the fear of taking time off, we all need to take the time to rest and be energized for all life has to throw at us. 

Taking time off can look different for everyone. Your job might come with a certain amount of PTO that you can cash in whenever you want. You might work freelance or hourly and just have to complete your assigned tasks, then you’re off. Whatever vacations look like for you, take the time you need to rest and get your energy back. 

Something many people make the mistake of doing when they do take their days off is not unplugging and being present. I’m so guilty of this. The second anything for work pops up, I’ll drop everything to do it. That’s not taking a break or a day off. Turn off your phone, delete the work apps, and get away from all of your real-life troubles when you go on vacation. Otherwise, it’s not a vacation.

The Benefits of Taking Time Off Work

We can’t work forever. That’s just a fact. There’s a reason our society has made 40-hour work weeks the norm, and there’s also a reason why people are actively trying to reduce those hours.

 Working long hours can cause critical health concerns. According to a recent study by The World Health Organization, 745,000 people died in 2016 from heart diseases and strokes that were linked to long hours of work. More research found that “Working 55 hours or more a week was associated with 35% higher risk of stroke and 17% higher risk of dying from heart disease than a workweek of 35 to 40 hours.” Working for prolonged periods of time is actually killing us.

There are so many benefits to taking time off from work. You need to get a new spark of energy and creativity. If you’re working in a creative job, you can’t spend your life staring at a screen; you need to go out and get inspiration. 

One of the most important benefits of taking time off is that it can prevent burnout. If you’re not familiar with the term, “Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress.” When we’re constantly working, we’re going to suffer from burnout and then be forced to take a break because we’re too exhausted to continue.

The Importance of Vacation

While it’s fun to go on vacation and adventures, it’s also necessary. Dr. Jun Wen of Edith Cowan University conducted a study on the benefits of traveling and vacationing. Dr. Wen found that “While exercise has been linked to mental wellbeing, we know that people tend to move more when they’re on holiday.” The increased activity level makes your vacation physically good for you. 

You’re also more social when you’re on vacation. Meals are often family affairs, you’re doing activities with your loved ones, and you’re spending days, if not weeks, with the people who mean the most to you.

What Now?

I understand that it’s difficult to just take time off and go on vacation. I can easily sit here and tell you to do that, but vacations are expensive, and it’s (ironically) very stressful to take time off and tell your boss and coworkers that you are out of the office.

I suggest we all examine our work/life balance for the next little bit. Ask yourself if you’re getting burnt out or tired quickly, if the spark of joy and passion you usually feel for your job is gone, or if you cannot turn your brain off and stop working for a day. These are all signs that might mean you need to take a break before work breaks you. 

And I’m not suggesting we all go on a month-long trip to a foreign country (no matter how wonderful that sounds), but try to take a few paid vacation days off and prioritize yourself rather than working 24/7.


When was the last time you took time off? Are you feeling like you need to soon? Comment below!

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