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Reset your perspective: The Mental Health Benefits of Taking a Vacation

It’s odd the way many people think about vacations. On the one hand, everyone loves the idea of getting away for a beach vacation or a few days of golf. On the other hand, getting away from it all causes some to worry that taking time off from high-pressure jobs will be interpreted as a sign of weakness or a lack of drive.

Healthcare professionals agree that vacations are necessary for people caught up in hectic lives. Vacations are a tonic for stress, a potentially lethal condition that takes a toll on the body, inhibiting its ability to resist infection, maintain alertness, and prevent long-term cell damage that can lead to disease. Left unaddressed, stress can be a killer. Vacations are a known antidote. So why do some people hesitate to take advantage of them?


Going on vacation can cause some to feel guilty that they’re dropping the ball at work, leaving co-workers holding the bag or letting down the boss. Guilt may come from other sources. A busy employee may feel bad that he can take a vacation while others can’t or fret that taking leisure time may cause resentment among co-workers.

Fortunately, there are ways around those worries. Consider sending a card or bringing back a gift for someone who was stuck at work while you were out enjoying yourself. Or you might donate to a charity if it helps allay guilty feelings. And don’t feel bad if you need to touch base via email to avoid weeding through dozens of messages when you return (another source of stress).


There’s a wealth of evidence showing that vacations are well worth the guilt. A 2009 Canadian study of nearly 900 lawyers revealed that taking part in active and social leisure activity, or going on vacation, was effective in reducing stress levels among attorneys in a high-profile law firm.
And a British researcher found a direct link between vacations and personal and social development, feelings of personal well-being, a broadened perspective, and more.

There are also important mental health benefits for family relationships, which are the first to suffer the consequences of prolonged stress. Taking family vacations is an excellent way to boost feelings of family solidarity and encourage better communication. Vacations give families an opportunity to get away from the stress of day-to-day responsibilities together, and create lasting memories through the bonding of shared experience.  


Some people stress out over what may happen while they’re on vacation. You can take control of this fear through careful planning, and preparing for as many contingencies as possible. Years ago, this might have been a daunting task. But Google and other dynamic sources of information, covering everything under the sun, make planning a snap.

Some people stay home because they worry about their pet, even though dog sitting services are abundant and easy to find. If your worry is that someone will get sick, search the Web for doctors, hospitals and pharmacies near your destination. If you’re concerned you’ll miss an exhibit or won’t get into that restaurant you’ve heard so much about, you can find hours, reviews, ticket information, menu items and other valuable information via the Internet.

Succeeding in one’s career and leading a happy, fulfilling life are what drive us to work hard and push ourselves to work through physical and emotional hardship. But achieving those goals can turn into a self-perpetuating nightmare when stress takes over. Vacations foster togetherness, broaden perspectives, create shared memories and slow the pace of life, if only for a little while. Most importantly, they remind us what makes life worth living.

Thanks to Henry Moore from The Fit Traveler!  

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Eric Bryant