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Travel Therapy: The Mental Health Benefits of Time Off

Studies show that Europeans – with their long vacations and flexible hours – are actually more productive than their overworked American peers. Why? Time off reduces stress and keeps employees sharp, making the time Europeans do spend at work more fruitful.  

And yet, despite the evidence, research suggests that many Americans are afraid to take time off due to high-pressure workplace environments and a pervasive attitude that working harder – not smarter – is the mark of a dedicated employee.

Don’t be one of those fearful, overworked employees. It’s time to follow the evidence and finally cash in those vacation days. Read on for the mental health benefits of taking that well-deserved trip – and ways to make the most out of your travel.

Traveling combats chronic stress.

Everyone knows about the harmful effects of stress. And yet so few people make the connection between lack of time away and chronic fatigue, illness, depression, and anxiety.

Sure… meditation, exercise, and mindfulness can all help to combat stress, but traveling provides your system with a way to truly disconnect and conduct a full-blown reboot.

Psychologists know that chronic stress wreaks havoc on your immune system’s ability to resist infection, get the proper amount of sleep, and repair itself. So if you’re going on a vacation hoping for some rest and relaxation, it’s prudent to pick a destination that fits your desired need. (Vegas might be fun, but it probably won’t help you to recharge your work/life balance batteries.)

Going somewhere scenic, where you can connect with nature or take in amazing cultural experiences, will help you to let go of chronic tension. And if you have an overbearing boss, it can also provide an excuse to fully cut off contact. Alert colleagues that you’ll be out of the office and unable to answer any correspondence – and cite lack of cell reception or Wifi access as an excuse if you need to.

Take care of pressing responsibilities in advance – and hire a dog sitter!

If you’re the kind of person that has a hard time leaving work at the office, or spends the entire trip worried about about whether or not you’ve left the stove burner on, make preparations for your departure way in advance.

Schedule your workflow so that you’re able to meet important deadlines before your departure. Hire a pet sitter to watch your dog while you’re away. And deal with any bills, payments, or issues before you travel. This will allow you to remain in the moment on your vacation, and give your peace of mind. (Plus, Rover will make a new friend!)

While planning, consider your individual “vacation style.”

Are you the kind of person that prefers to have an itinerary? Or does paradise entail sitting on the beach all day with a mystery novel and a martini, soaking up the sun, blissfully unaware of the time?

There is no right travel style. But it’s important to tailor your vacation to fit your personality. Otherwise, it won’t be relaxing – and you’ll return from your trip feeling drained.

During the planning stage, make a vacation wish list. Are sightseeing and good food top priorities? Do you need plenty of time to lounge around doing nothing? Or are you hoping to delegate all of the planning and embark on an all-inclusive stay at a resort or on a cruise?

Determine your ideal trip, map out a budget, and consult your partner, children, and fellow travelers. Find the places where your wishlists intersect? Where can you compromise? And where do you need to put your foot down?

Don’t be afraid to advocate for what you need. After all, you’ve worked hard for this trip, and you deserve to relax.

Think of your vacation as therapy, because it is.

Time away is essential for your mental health – and no reason to feel guilty. Remember, you are a creative and hard-working employee, and the world won’t fall apart if you finally honor your needs and take that dream trip.

With careful planning, a little help, and a lot of vision, your vacation will reduce your stress levels, clear away the mental cobwebs, and yes – even be more productive at work.

Henry Moore
henry@fitwelltraveler.com | fitwelltraveler.com

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