The pandemic has changed a lot about the way we work and live. It’s also changed how we vacation. Before the pandemic, Americans were notorious for only using about half of their vacation time. Since the pandemic, things have gotten worse.

We are working more hours and vacationing even less. Between March and July of 2020, the majority of Americans shortened, postponed or canceled their vacation plans according to this small study.

Research tells us that working long hours increases our risk for stroke and heart disease. Especially while struggling through a pandemic, it’s never more important than now to focus on our health and well-being.

Your employer provides paid time off with the hope of sending off a tightly wound employee and getting back one that is smiling, content and more importantly, productive. Here are some of the subtle changes your boss hopes you achieve through taking time off from work:

Learned Relaxation

Relaxing is a skill. When work spirals into a frenzy or an aggressive deadline is in your face, collapsing into a puddle in the corner because the stress is so great helps no one. It is in these moments you most need the skill necessary to calm your central nervous system and move forward in a level-headed manner.

When is a perfect time to hone this skill? That’s right. Vacation time. Whether your vacation involves sitting on a beach or hiking Machu Pichu, link moments of being relaxed with taking a deep breath. Next time work gets crazy, drop into that breath. Use it to stay calm and carry on.

Expanded Mindset

New experiences and meeting new people is good for our brains and opens our minds to new possibilities. Being open to alternate realities makes space in our minds for creativity. Apply this new way of looking and living to both your home life and your work. There is more out there than your tiny little piece of the world. Check it out, see what it can teach you and return to your job with new eyes and fresh ideas.

Balanced Life

If you have gotten off track, time off can bring balance back to your life.  Spending too much energy on work? Are you constantly checking email, even at home on your “down time”? Use vacation time to step away from work completely and check in on other aspects of your life. Reflect on the whole picture that is your being and consider where your current work-life balance stands. Adjust as necessary.

An Unplugged Brain

Whether you realize it or not, constantly checking your phone/email/social media accounts wears on your brain. Fear of missing out is a real thing and it creates stress.

Vacation can be the ultimate unplug. Leave the phone at home or find a destination with no cell service. The mind you save will be your own.

Improved Relationships

In addition to the benefits of a digital detox, reap the reward of refreshed relationships by spending precious down time connecting with people that are important to you.

Be warned: you may find the break refreshes your relationship with your job as well. You can’t appreciate your work or your co-workers if you never leave.

The bottom line is this: vacation days are yours to use or to lose. Take full advantage of the benefits they offer by using them. It’s good to take a little break from your job to relax, refresh and unplug. The relationships you foster in your down time will support you in a way that enriches your life and makes your job more fulfilling.

Enjoy!

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