How Going on Regular Vacations can be Good for Your Mental Health
Updated: Dec 11, 2020
The To Well and Back blog is a lifestyle and wellness blog that gives great advice to anyone looking to better themselves and improve their mental health. We are lucky enough to have Lexi as a guest writer and she wants to share with you guys the benefits of taking a break on your mental health.
Everyone loves going on vacation, but did you know that going on regular vacations actually has some major mental health benefits? Let’s say that you work 40 hours a week every week for the 52 weeks that there are in a year, give or take for holidays off and days that you stay later than usual (we all know these inevitably happen). That’s approximately 2,080 hours in a year that you spend working! On top of all of that, there are still a whole slew of other responsibilities that need to be taken care of outside of work. Cooking, cleaning, running errands, doctor’s appointments, taking care of your kids if you have them…the list goes on.
With such a full schedule, it’s easy to get wrapped up in our daily responsibilities and forget to take some time off for ourselves. Taking some time away from the stressors of day to day life is a must though if you want to protect your mental health and not burn out.
Before we dive further into all the mental health benefits you can get from taking regular vacations, let’s take a quick look at just how harmful overexposure to stress is for you.
The Negative Effects Stress Has on the Brain
When you are exposed to stress, your body releases a hormone called cortisol. It’s totally normal to be exposed to small amounts of cortisol, as your body releases it naturally. However, when your brain is constantly being exposed to cortisol (like when you’re in a 24/7 state of stress), it can negatively affect its entire structure. This can lead to mental health conditions like burnout, anxiety, and depression. Some of the symptoms that come along with these mental health conditions are brain fog, forgetfulness, insomnia, irritability, and a loss of appetite. All these negative effects hinder your performance. So not only is too much stress bad for your mental health; it can also make you less productive.
On top of all those negative mental health effects, overexposure to stress can impact your physical health too. High blood pressure, digestive issues, headaches, and a weakened immune system are some of the most common physical ailments that too much stress can cause.
Mental Health Benefits of Going on Regular Vacations
As you can see, overexposure to stress is not something you want in your life. Going on vacation can help reduce that stress, providing you with mental health benefits instead. It allows you to decompress, releases some built up stress hormones, decreases your risk of anxiety and depression, and helps improve focus and productivity.
Plus, many vacations include a little bit of traveling. Maybe that traveling is somewhere across the country, or maybe it’s just a few hours north of your home. Either way, taking yourself physically away from your work and home life responsibilities will allow for a whole other level of relaxation. You know that saying: out of sight, out of mind. Well, at least until your vacation is over.
Vacations Are Huge Stress Reducers
Most people’s schedules are full of things like work, chores, and errands. Like I mentioned earlier, us humans are not designed to just work, work, work without any time off. Vacations give you the opportunity to forget about all those things for a few days and just live in the present moment. There have actually been studies done to prove the amazing stress-reducing effects of taking regular vacations. In this 2013 study, it was found that “after only a day or two [of vacationing], 89% of respondents saw significant drops in stress.” That’s nearly all of them. And after only one or two days! The stress reduction people experience from going on vacation is nearly an instant one. I mean, think about it. How can stressed can you possibly be while laying in the sun on some tropical beach or staring in awe at the gorgeous view of mountains outside your hotel window?
Traveling Is Good for the Soul
Staying in one place for too long can keep you from seeing all of the beauty and wonder that is out there in the rest of the world. It can start to feel claustrophobic and stifling. There’s so much earth out there. What a waste it would be to only ever see a miniscule portion of it.
Going on vacation will bring you to new places that you may never have gotten to experience otherwise. This change of scenery is very positive for mental health. It induces happiness. It sparks creativity. It exposes you to new perspectives. It brings you clarity.
In short, it’s good for the soul. There’s something very fulfilling about visiting a place that is completely new and foreign to you. It helps you feel connected to the rest of the world.
Overview of Mental Health Benefits from Going on Regular Vacations
It reduces stress at a rapid rate
It decreases the risk of anxiety and depression
It protects the brain’s ability to function properly
It prevents the brain from experiencing burnout
It improves focus and productivity
It improves overall mood
It sparks creativity
It connects you to the rest of the world
It’s Okay to Use Your Vacation Days at Work
At this point, some of you may be thinking that this all sounds great, but work is way too busy to take time off from. Maybe there’s a big project you’re working on. Maybe your company has just started a new promotion. Maybe you just landed a new client. There will always be an excuse not to take a vacation if you allow yourself to come up with one.
There is nothing wrong, irresponsible, or selfish about using your vacation days and taking some time off of work though. Going on vacation does not make you a bad worker. Quite the opposite actually. Giving your brain a break prevents burnout and restores its mental strength, helping you perform better at work and boosting your productivity. You can’t get your job done to your best ability if you’re experiencing brain fog and mental exhaustion. Just remember: vacationing is a form of self-care, and self-care is NOT selfish.
Going on vacation isn’t just a great way to explore new parts of the world and have some fun. It’s also an amazing way to reduce stress, boost your mood, and protect yourself from mental health conditions like burnout and anxiety. I know that life can get hectic sometimes, but don’t let that stop you from making self-care and stress reduction a priority. Knowing when to take a much needed break is so important for not only your mental health, but your overall wellbeing.
Make going on regular vacations a priority for yourself. It doesn’t always have to be something extravagant or expensive, and it doesn’t have to be multiple times a year either. Vacationing once a year or even once every two years is far better than not vacationing at all. You can go somewhere tropical, somewhere mountainous, somewhere peaceful, somewhere exciting, somewhere overseas, somewhere over state lines…it doesn’t really matter where you go, so long as you aren’t taking your stress with you.