As self-employed consultants, we have to take breaks and vacations whenever we can get them (something I’ve been remiss in doing for a while). So when I was invited to speak to the Coastal Carolinas chapter of the American Advertising Federation this week, I made sure to extend the trip into a mini vacation.
We know vacations are a boon to our mental health, and we might have some awareness that they’re beneficial to our physical health – but chances are vacations are even more important than you realize. Taking part in leisure activities is shown to lead to lower blood pressure, lower stress hormones and smaller waists, and one study found vacations lead to a significantly lower risk of mortality. That’s right – taking a break from time to time can actually contribute to your long-term survival!
Interestingly, even if we have an understanding of the benefits vacations offer our bodies, it’s often harder for us to recognize that vacations are actually critical to being effective at work. Do you know that some scientists have found that stress shrinks your brain (an effect that can be reversed after a period of rest)? Even small vacations actually change your brain waves, leading to improved reaction times, clarity and creativity.
So, when you jokingly (or not so jokingly) exclaim, “I need a vacation!” the truth is, you really do.
For me, because I'm truly nutty as a fruitcake and addicted to goal-setting, I often make mental health-related goals for myself that I hope to achieve while on vacation. During some breaks, I seek to jump start my creative juices by trying new things, while other times I pause to reflect on the directions I'm taking my business and my life. This time, I’ll be doing something especially radical: striving to turn my thoughts off almost completely – to be 100% in the moment, with no thoughts whatsoever (no easy feat for an OCD gal like myself, but I’m hoping it will lead to a helpful recharging).
What vacations or mini-breaks do you have coming up this summer, and what do you hope to accomplish (or avoid) as a result? Let us know in the comments, and if you haven’t decided when your next break is, start planning!