During the Covid-19 lockdown of 2020, the world temporarily experienced a world void of vacations. As we all stayed home, we dreamed of what we would do when travel was no longer a taboo subject. Unfortunately, the combination of economic struggle and intense competition among hotels means that vacations have never been more expensive.
Despite the high cost, vacations are not a waste of money. Time spent away from home promotes both mental and physical health enough to counteract the temporary loss of income. Vacations can lower anxiety, promote healthy work/life balance, and even increase lifespan by improving overall health.
Even in today’s economy, it pays to take a break. Read on to find out how studies support the idea that taking periodic vacations is worth it for a longer, healthier, and happier life.
How Do Vacations Affect Mental Health?
We’ve all experienced it: the burnout that inevitably accompanies long periods of days at work. In a recent study by the American Institute of Stress, forty percent of Americans regularly feel stressed at their workplace. Another quarter listed work as the most significant stressor in their lives.
Vacations promote positive mental health by reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression, increasing memory, and decreasing the effects of burnout. By taking the time to remove yourself from your work life, you can improve your productivity and avoid the struggle associated with mental exhaustion.
Lowering Anxiety and Depression
Stress doesn’t just aggravate anxiety in those who already suffer. Prolonged stress can alter the brain in such a way as to cause long-term issues with depression and anxiety.
A team of researchers at the University of Wisconsin revealed the results of a study showing that anxiety can trigger permanent alterations in the genetics of a person’s brain. These changes created anxiety and depression symptoms where none existed previously.
By exposing yourself to long-term stress, you are changing the shape of your brain.
Anxiety and depression are a tricky combination. The effects from one exacerbate the stressors of another, creating a cycle that is increasingly difficult to escape. Investing in a vacation is not frivolous; it’s investing in your own long-term happiness.
It might seem that more time spent at work would increase your production rate, but all the facts point to the contrary. Too much time spent working without stopping can actually cause burnout and shorten your memory, causing your productivity to take a huge hit.
The brain is a unique, complex organ.
When exposed to what seems too much to handle, it partially shuts down as a defense mechanism. As a result, exposing yourself to too much stress causes memory function to slow, temporarily protecting your mind but harming your work life.
At a young age, this same pattern can be extremely harmful.
Research shows that when exposed to too much stress before the age of six, children’s brain development was harmed over the long term. While it may be tempting to believe you can’t afford a vacation for your family, it may cost more in the long run to skip that trip to the beach.
How Do Vacations Affect Physical Health?
Did you know that stress is more than just a mental sensation? It actually plays a role in nearly all of your bodily processes. Exposing yourself to chronic stress harms more than your mind, as too much pressure can create lasting physical harm as well.
Vacations affect physical health by lowering the amount of stress your body processes. Stress is one of the greatest causes of sleep deprivation and inflammation in the body. By taking preemptive measures against chronic stress, you increase your own health and quality of life.
If you don’t suffer from arthritic conditions, you may not spend much time thinking about inflammation, but it might be time to start.
Chronic inflammation can cause a variety of struggles, from muscle aches to gastrointestinal issues. One of the most incredible steps you can take against inflammation is lowering your normal level of stress.
Stress triggers your body in a similar way to infection, disrupting bodily processes. For example, chronic stress can disrupt the communication between your brain and gut, triggering stomach issues.
It is also connected to changes in the bacteria that help us process and digest food. Have you ever struggled with dietary issues during a busy week? The problem isn’t in your mind; it’s in your gut.
Chronic stress is one of the main issues associated with heart attacks.
The second leading cause of heart attacks, weight gain, is also a frequent side effect of a stressful lifestyle. A vacation may seem expensive in the short term, but you’ll more than makeup for the lost income by skipping a terrifying and costly trip to the emergency room.
Anyone who has ever had an incredibly stressful week understands what I mean here. The more your body seems to need sleep, the less simple it is to easily drift off at night.
Current studies suggest that ten to thirty percent of adults struggle with insomnia, and stress is frequently listed among the leading causes. Insomnia is not a simple issue many seem to believe it is.
Sleep deprivation can have serious repercussions, including decreased mood and increased risk for disease.
An immediate change of scenery may trigger temporary insomnia, but the overall effects are more than worth it. While you may not always sleep well during your vacation, the decreased sensation of stress can go a long way in helping you sleep better at home.
Vacations don’t necessarily have to be expensive. A quick day trip with the family, a day off to visit the zoo, or even a “staycation” spent by a cheap hotel pool are all great ways to reduce stress without breaking your budget.
That being said, the more you research the topic, the more you may be convinced that even an expensive vacation may be worth the positive, lasting effects on your physical and mental health.
- BBR Foundation: The Importance of Taking Vacation Time to Destress and Recharge
- American Psychological Association: Stress Effects on the Body
- BBR Foundation: Researchers Track Gene Alteration in Brain Areas Perturbed by Stress
- BBR Foundation: Severe Stress Before Age 6 Results in Smaller Memory Structures
- Sleep Foundation: Stress and Insomnia