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  • Writer's pictureDrDavanaPilczuk

Vacation time is medicine for workers on edge of burnout

You need a vacation, my friend. Yes, you.

If you are like the many hard-working individuals who give everything they’ve got to their job, their families and everything else in between, then you definitely need a vacation. Chances are, though, you don’t take enough of it.

Start to view vacation time like it was medicine. The human body needs breaks, both physical and mental, if it is going to continue to perform well. It isn’t a weakness. It’s just how we are built.

If stress is a huge issue for you or you have chronic health issues (another form of stress), then follow these few steps when planning your next vacation.

Negotiate more time

If you are starting a new job or are in a position to negotiate your current pay, I highly recommend asking for more vacation time. Most everyone looks just at salary and bonus pay, but vacation time is hugely important to your long-term performance.

View it as a time to be creative and not encumbered with the day-to-day minutia of your normal job duties. And vacations don’t mean you need to leave where you live. It’s just you time, and your body and mind desperately need that break to maintain high levels of performance.

Taking a day off every other month may not leave you feeling completely refreshed when you return to work, but those down days away from the desk can give you time to work in the yard, plan a family movie night or have a nice lunch downtown with a friend. And it’s actually during those down times that the creative side of your brain kicks in gear and comes up with new ideas and projects for work.

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How long to leave

Research has found that it takes a solid three days to decompress from your job, especially if you are in mentally stressful positions like sales, management or engineering. It takes a while for the brain to stop ruminating about your to-do list or for you to stop checking your emails every two seconds.

After those first three days, then your vacation can actually begin. My recommendation is to take off a minimum of five days straight. Ideally, a solid week is what you need to feel refreshed when you return to work. And you may not like to hear this, but the people you work with will probably enjoy the long break from you as well!

What to do

Do things that feed your soul. If you love good wine and cheese, then go to a winery and indulge in the ambiance (not necessarily the wine) and relax. If you like thrills and excitement, go to a theme park.

What makes you feel not just happy, but alive? Go do that. Find places and activities that force you to disengage from your job. Doing things we absolutely love makes that a whole lot easier.

A word of caution: I don’t necessarily consider family vacations as true vacations. They can be some of the most stressful times simply due to the task of traveling with a horde of people. Use those times to be with your loved ones, but then schedule time later in the year that’s really for you to recover. I love Mickey, but after being in Orlando for three days in the heat and crowds, I feel more stressed than when I arrived!

Burnout is a very real problem for a large amount of the working population. People who suffer from burnout don’t realize that it often starts slowly and happens because we continually push ourselves to work, but fail to feed our souls with the things we love. We push our bodies and fail to allow ourselves ample recovery time to just relax, enjoy a hot shower or get a massage. Many of us see these things as “nice to have” when they aren’t at all. They are “need to have” because your body and mind need time to rest and play. They are crucial to our existence.

So start using your vacation time, and the next time you get a chance to start a new job, negotiate for more of it!

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