Why taking a holiday is good for you in the long run
We live in a work-oriented society. But there’s a paradox. That same work ethic – where you might be hard at it 24/7, impressing your boss as your productivity soars – can have a corrosive effect if you don’t allow your body and mind some rest from the daily toil.
Exhaustion…and even burnout
Even those entitled to 2 or 3 weeks paid annual leave often don’t take them. This means that, down the line, they risk mental and physical exhaustion, and even the possibility of a burnout that can be difficult to overcome.
Studies have determined that too much overtime can be particularly harmful. Even among those without previous mental health problems, people who work in excess of 11 hours each day double their risk of a serious depressive condition.
“The number of working people, from all walks of industry, who don’t take advantage of the holiday time they’re entitled to is extraordinary,” says Nick Harris, Head of Travel Law with specialist solicitor Simpson Millar.
“They risk suffering problems associated with long-term overwork, from simple fatigue, worry and stress to high blood pressure and even heart conditions.
“Apart from the immediate effect on the individual, broader problems are stored up too, with illness leading to lack of confidence, staff shortages, loss of productivity and ultimately increased pressures on the health service.”
How you’re affected physically
‘The Holiday Health Experiment’, a 2012 survey conducted by Britain’s biggest health charity, Nuffield Health, and the tour firm Kuoni, revealed some of the drawbacks associated with not taking a break.
Results showed abnormally high blood pressure levels among people who declined to take a holiday. The study’s 12 subjects also said they were stressed and that they slept poorly.
Each study subject’s health was assessed, with sleeping patterns and stress resistance closely monitored. Psychotherapeutic testing was undertaken and all individuals received summer-long lifestyle and dietary advice.
Does better stress management lead to more happiness?
Study lead Christine Webber, an expert on mental health and relationship issues, noted that reduced blood pressure lessens the likelihood of cardiac problems and strokes, with good sleep conducive to the body’s immune system.
“It’s apparent from our results that the majority feel happier, more rested and much less stressed because of their vacations,” Ms Webber said.
Medical Director of Nuffield Health Dr Lucy Goundry noted how clinical results had proved the importance of holidays in reducing blood pressure, improving sleep and managing stress.
“These results clearly demonstrate that on holiday our ability to physically cope with stress improves,” Dr Goundry said. “I urge everyone to ensure they plan their holidays carefully. Working hard is important but so is taking time to rest and recuperate.”
Nick Harris said results of the Nuffield study bear out those of an earlier US survey. “1991’s Framingham Study, as recorded by the American Journal of Epidemiology, found that women homemakers who only holidayed once in every 6 years or less were 50% more at risk from heart attacks.”
How you’re affected mentally
Psychologists believe that taking insufficient time away from the desk or production line has career implications.
“Not taking our full annual leave entitlement can lead to people feeling resentful towards colleagues in the workplace, and more likely to make mistakes,” NHS mental health manager Corinne Usher said.
Ms Usher added that research into the benefits of taking a vacation have demonstrated that we are better at solving problems, are more motivated, happier and less stressed and less emotionally exhausted.
A senior clinical psychologist, Dr Rachel Andrew, said many are affected by routine stress. This results in an overall ‘disconnect’, with no emotional engagement with their daily activities.
“To build people back up again, I recommend taking time out from hectic, pressured lifestyles,” Dr Andrew said. “It is essential to switch off. This can be linked to escaping technology…[it] can free the mind to be creative.”
Nick Harris agrees with the health experts, noting the advantages of a holiday for both the individual and their nearest and dearest.
The benefits realised by taking a holiday, from more efficient problem resolution to overall happiness and welbeing, mean those at risk of heart conditions are better placed to overcome them while enjoying improved relationships within the family.”