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If you haven’t used your vacation days, now is a good time to do so.

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Americans have fewer vacation days than many European countries, yet about 55% of us don’t even use all of the paid time off we get.

There are many reasons you may not take time off from work. Maybe money is tight and you don’t want the added expense of a trip. Or you work from home so you don’t think you deserve time off because you’re not in the office. Whatever the reason, think twice before throwing away your vacation days. Not only are they due to you, but taking time off may help keep you healthier.

Research shows that working 55 hours or more a week may be associated with a 35% higher risk of stroke and a 17% higher risk of dying from heart disease compared to working 40 hours or less. Working from home doesn’t help. When your home is also your office, it may be harder to disconnect. Not taking a break from work means you don’t get a break from work-related stress and anxiety.

Need some motivation to use your vacation days? Here are 5 good-for-you reasons to do so:

      • A better outlook. Your health starts to improve before you even pack your bags! One study indicates that in the weeks leading up to a planned vacation, stress levels decline and cardiovascular health improves.
      • Better physical health. Headaches, back pain and sleep problems are all linked to work-related stress and sitting for long hours at a desk. Taking time away from the daily grind has been shown to improve these physical ailments.
      • Better mental health. A vacation can have the same positive effects as meditation, according to a study in The Journal of Positive Psychology. Higher levels of well-being and increased mindfulness were found to be benefits of vacations. So were reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety.
      • Better productivity. Physically and mentally disengaging from work gives your brain a much-needed rest. This mental break can even improve your capacity to learn. This means when you return to the office, you’ll be recharged and ready to take on new challenges.
      • Better long-term health. Taking regular vacations may help reduce the risk of high blood pressure, elevated blood sugar, excess belly fat and abnormal cholesterol levels. These are key risk factors for heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes. Research findings show that men at high risk for heart disease were 32% less likely to die from related causes if they took frequent vacations.

Rising prices have a lot of people worried about the cost of a vacation this year, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take time off from work. Just take a staycation instead! Disengaging from work to enjoy some fun, relaxing time at home can do just as much for your physical and mental health as traveling to a far off destination. Explore sites around town, treat your backyard like a tropical paradise or work on a fun hobby. Regularly spending time in nature has also been shown to improve health and wellbeing.

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Date Last Reviewed: June 15, 2022

Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor

Medical Review: Perry Pitkow, MD

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