Whether you celebrate Canada Day or the 4th of July, there’s a three-day weekend right around the corner. But if you’re anything like me, you might feel a bit apprehensive about taking time off.
For freelance writers and small business owners alike, the 40-hour workweek is a fantasy. I feel like I’m always on call and must be ready for a last minute story or rewrite. On my last vacation, I rode in the car clutching my laptop (I was the passenger, lest that image raised any concerns of my recklessness), praying that my phone wouldn’t ring from one of my four editors. If I had a flower shop, I’d probably be even more nervous, fretting whether flowers arrived from the wholesaler in the right numbers, condition and shade of “peachy pink.” I’d worry that the delivery driver made contact with the recipient or that my salespeople were treating my customers with impeccable service.
It’s good to be invested in your work and to strive for excellence, but when we adopt an “always on” mentality, we wear ourselves out. In my case: I lose quality sleep (i.e. my dreams tie into whatever I’m writing about and I toss and turn all night), I gain weight, I avoid friends to work, and I begin to wake up with an attitude of dread rather than excitement.
So let’s break that cycle, at least for this holiday weekend. To appease our guilt about enjoying some leisure time, I’ve rounded up a few upsides of downtime:
Decreased Risk of a Heart Attack
The Framingham Heart Study, the largest and longest-running study of cardiovascular disease, revealed that men who went several years without a vacation were 30 percent more likely to have heart attacks compared to men who took time off. And women who took a vacation only once every six years or less were almost eight times more likely to develop coronary heart disease or have a heart attack compared to women who vacationed at least twice a year.
A study conducted by Marshfield Clinic of 1,500 women in rural Wisconsin determined that those who vacationed less than once every two years were more likely to suffer from depression than women who took vacations at least twice a year. Similarly, the University of Pittsburgh’s Mind Body Center surveyed some 1,400 individuals and found that leisure activities – including taking vacations – contributed to higher positive emotional levels and less depression. The benefits of vacationing also extended to lower blood pressure and smaller waistlines.
Professional services firm Ernst & Young conducted an internal study and found that, for each additional 10 hours of vacation employees took, their year-end performance ratings improved 8 percent, and that frequent vacationers were significantly less likely to leave the firm. Additionally, research by the Boston Consulting Group found that high-level professionals who were required to take time off were significantly more productive overall than those who spent more time working.
So step away from your computer, *put down your smartphone, and go enjoy your long weekend!
*Unless you’re off to Anaheim for AIFD’s Symposium – in which case, I’d love to see your photos! Send them to [email protected]