Why Taking Time Off is Essential to Your Health
The idea of “taking time off from work” can conjure up a menagerie of thoughts and emotions. Disappointing a boss or coworkers, failing to complete projects on time, or the peer pressure that no one else seems to be taking a break around you can make it difficult to feel like you can take some time for you.
However, that doesn’t change the fact that time off is a critical element to long-term professional success. Not only that, but it can be a revolutionizing practice that can literally save your life.
Taking time off
Professional athletes rest and recuperate after every game. And yet, for all the breaks — in fact, in some part because of them — they excel at their craft. No one would think it’s okay if a coach suddenly expected their team to be on the field competing for six, eight, or 12 hours every day, all year long.
The same goes for each and every one of us. No, we’re not competing with the same physical intensity of a professional athlete, but it doesn’t change the fact that we’re all humans, operating with the same bodies, minds, and natural limitations. For example, when a nurse is expected to stay on the clock for a 12-hour shift — a phenomenon that has existed for nearly half a century now — they’re clearly not going to function as well 11.5 hours into their workday as they would at two or three hours in.
In addition to the stress of excessively long individual days, when you push yourself to continually work, day after day with no end in sight, it’s profoundly harmful to nearly every aspect of your health. The routines, stresses, and pressures of everyday life are already a lot to take care of even in moderation. Without an appropriate amount of breaks sprinkled throughout, though, it can be downright detrimental to your wellbeing.
Time off from work, whether you’re talking about a 10-minute chance to stretch, a long weekend, or a three-week trip to the Bahamas, serves the important function of helping to break up and release some of the natural stress of everyday life. While stress is a perfectly normal part of life, taking time off gives you a chance to manage your stress and prevent some of the long-term damage that unbridled worry and anxiety can produce, including:
- Chronic pain
- Lackluster energy
- Appetite and digestion issues
- Cardiovascular concerns (e.g. an increased heart rate, high blood pressure, etc.)
In addition to the physical concerns, there are many different ways that time off from work can help with your mental health. It can help avoid feelings of being trapped, allows you to decompress from stressful work situations, and enables you to step back and gain a better perspective, turning those mountains back into molehills in the process.
Time off can also present a chance to interact with family and friends as well as spend time “unplugged” from the technological tools that keep modern employees incessantly tethered to their professional responsibilities.
In other words, the guilt typically associated with time off is a misnomer. It’s not an inability to “come through” for coworkers or a failure to be successful. On the contrary, a well-earned break from your work and daily routine allows you to refuel and refocus and can ultimately lead to a much more productive time at work.
Primary Ways for Taking Time Off
While time off is a fairly nebulous term that should be tailored to each person’s situation, there are a few primary ways to genuinely take time off from work, including:
The Short Game
It’s recommended that no more than two hours should be spent on a particular task. Taking periodic breaks throughout the day as well as genuinely unplugging when you’re off the clock can go a long way toward helping to keep you fresh and productive on a daily basis.
The Long Weekend
If you’re feeling dried up, but you know a longer vacation just isn’t in the cards, try to set up a long weekend off from work. Three or four days can be the perfect amount of time to disconnect and treat yourself to a wellness vacation. Make sure to take time to gauge your current needs beforehand. Do you need a chance to socialize, withdraw and read a good book, pamper yourself, or explore new places? Consider heading out on a short-term solo trip or find a good hiking trail or local hotspot to investigate with a partner, friend, or even your pet.
Finally, there’s the tried and true vacation. If you can manage to get a week or two off, consider traveling abroad for a change of scenery. The simple act of traveling has numerous health benefits including:
- Enhancing your immune system.
- Boosting creativity.
- Facilitating growth for both individual and personal relationships.
- Increasing your overall state of happiness.
If going to a far-off destination isn’t appealing, that doesn’t mean a longer vacation is out of the question, either. It’s also perfectly reasonable to plan out a long staycation and fill the time with all of your favorite local activities or taking on a new craft or hobby you’ve been wanting to try.
Learning to Take Time Off
Whether it’s taking breaks at work, withdrawing for a long weekend, or heading out of town on a full-blown vacation, the practice of taking time off is one that will pay you back in spades. Not only does it help increase productivity at work, but it can relieve stress, boost creativity, and help to keep your mind and your body in good health, all of which are severely lacking in the modern, endlessly busy life that the average person leads.