If visions of sipping Mai Tais on the beach bring a smile to your face, you’re not alone. “Surveys show more than 90% of people feel happier after a vacation,” says Vicki Sowards, Director of Nursing Resources at Passport Health. But unfortunately, we’ve seen a significant decline in vacation usage in the last 15 years—almost a full work-week less than in 2000, according to Project: Time Off (P:TO).
“America’s Lost Week is a dangerous trend that threatens [our health], the treasured family vacation and, if left unchecked, could create the next generation of work martyrs,” warns Katie Denis, Senior Program Director at P:TO.
This threat is particularly relevant to educators, who spend their days in stressful, often emotionally-draining environments and are often encouraged to work through breaks. Though education doesn’t operate under the same time-off standards as other jobs, it’s just as important to take advantage of the time you do have. So fight the urge to grade papers over spring break or work tirelessly on your curriculum over the holidays and take a much-needed break.
If you need even more encouragement to book your next trip, we’ve rounded up five of the top health benefits of traveling:
1. Help your heart. We all know that vacations are relaxing, but the level of stress relief a trip provides is not to be underestimated. For example, the Framingham Heart Study showed women who vacation less than once every six years were eight times more susceptible to heart attack. “Researchers at the Mayo clinic believe this is tied to simply taking a break from daily stress,” explains Sowards.
Likewise, the Prevention of Coronary Heart Disease’s trial, sponsored by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, found that men with a high risk for coronary heart disease who take frequent annual vacations were 32% less likely to die from heart disease (and 21% less likely to die from any cause!).
2. Better your mood. Travel helps you achieve a more positive attitude while lowering the risk of depression, important to educators who need to recover and recharge from a stressful school year. In fact, the University of Pittsburgh's Mind Body Center’s survey found vacationing improves mood with an added bonus of lowering blood pressure. And a study conducted by Marshfield Clinic found that women who vacationed less than once every two years were more likely to suffer from depression and stress than women who took vacations at least twice a year.
3. Increase your productivity. Even though educators often teach summer school, write curriculum or take continuing education courses over breaks, it’s important to stop and breathe! Vacation time is vitality important to maintaining energy levels, improving mood and increasing productivity—all important for working in the classroom. And research backs this up: A study in partnership with the Society for Human Resource Management found that employees who take most or all of their vacation time are more productive in their jobs than those who do not.
It’s not surprising that using vacation time can lead to better performance and increased job satisfaction, but if that weren’t enough, multiple studies show the connection between travel and the ability to think creatively. “One study conducted by INSEAD found international travelers could solve problems more easily and were more flexible in their thinking,” says Sowards. “If a yoga bootcamp is stretching for our bodies, then international travel is stretching for our minds.”
4. Increase your physical fitness. “Physical health is key to any trip (before, during and after) and a lot of people start ‘getting fit’ for their trip months in advance, especially if they plan on hiking or doing other forms of physical activity,” says Sowards. “Studies conducted by The Lancet and other health groups found [that] decreasing inactivity can add more than a year to our lifespan, which means traveling isn’t just keeping you stress free, but also helping you extend your life as you walk, bike, canoe or whatever you may be doing.”
5. Create lasting positive memories for you and your family. From an emotional and psychological standpoint, family vacations are the place where some of our strongest memories are made, says Denis. In fact, research found that 62% of adults point to a vacation as one of their earliest memories, with many parents wanting to create similar memories for their own children. “This is more important than ever as research proves that children are seeing their parents’ work stress—6 in 7 children report seeing their parents bring work stress home, and 75% say that their parent is unable to stop working while at home—and it has serious consequences,” says Denis. “We can all relate to having to do some work at home occasionally, but at the level our kids are seeing our work martyr tendencies, we are setting up the expectation that it’s not only acceptable, but the norm. That’s a dangerous precedent for our kids and it makes taking time away from work much more critical.”
Start planning now!
During the school year, you take care of both your family and your school family—a vacation, whether it’s a weekend staycation or an international adventure—is a great way to focus on you, your own family and make lasting memories.
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