It’s no secret that in the U.S. being productive in your life – professionally and personally – is seen as a badge of honor. The idea of resting in the form of an afternoon nap, taking a mental health day to recharge, or using every single hour of your PTO is often judged or only seen as acceptable if earned through countless hours at the office.
In 2019 it was reported that American workers left 768 million days of vacation on the table and of these unused days, 236 million were completely forfeited meaning $65.5 billion of benefits were lost. In a culture that praises productivity, it begs the question – what is the mental health cost of all work and no play?
In this article, we will delve into the reasons why spring break matters for your mental health so you can step out of guilt and into self-care.
Why Spring Break Matters for Your Mental Health
Your body needs to recharge. It’s not rocket science. We are not robots. We can’t expect to keep going and going without rest – that way of living is what leads to burnout and illness. The word disease itself literally translates to dis-ease, meaning the body is not at ease. When you take a week or two off for spring break vacation, you are making the conscious choice to put yourself at ease. Now, it is important that when you do take a vacation, you’re not plugged into your phone the whole time, answering emails. Many Americans have normalized this behavior, but even sitting on the beach under a warm sun can still be stressful if you’re reading work emails. Step away from work when you are on vacation. The world will keep spinning.
It’s good for your mind. Neuroscientists have found that continuous exposure to stress can alter your brain structure and lead to mental health issues like depression and anxiety. When you take a spring break vacation and commit to relaxing activities like slowly enjoying breakfast, taking a bike ride, or enjoying a day at the spa, you are putting your mind at ease while inviting the body to heal from current and past stresses.
Improved Family Relationships. A benefit that most don’t realize with taking a spring break vacation is that relationships are often made stronger by it. Spending time with loved ones outside of the normal routine allows us to connect and cherish our bonds. Be open to trying new activities together while on vacation like going on a family hike or taking a cooking class. Experiencing new things together helps reignite passion that may have been buried with the overwhelm of daily life.
Boosted Happiness. Studies show that even the planning that goes before a trip can boost happiness for individuals. Having something to look forward to like splashing in the ocean, visiting a museum that you’ve always wanted to see, or staying in a cozy hotel room can evoke the feeling of excitement weeks before you even leave for a trip. Once you arrive to your destination, remember to be present. Even on vacation, we can stay conditioned to always wait the for next moment that we forget to look around at the current one. The real beauty in this life is often found in seemingly small things – the sun on your neck as you walk alongside the ocean, waking up without rushing anywhere, enjoying the sunset from the peak of a mountain. This, friends, is the good stuff. Be there for it.
High Self Worth. Lastly, taking a spring break vacation is imperative for your mental health because you are living in high self-worth by prioritizing your wellbeing. When we choose an unhealthy work-life balance by leaving PTO hours on the table every year, working long hours into the night on a regular basis, and subscribing to workaholic behavior, we are telling ourselves, our family members, and the world that our sanity, wellness, and mental health simply don’t matter enough to us; that we are willing to forgo our own joy and health for a paycheck or validation. Your worth is not based on how busy you are. Read that again. While being able to provide for yourself and loved ones is important, in the long run it doesn’t lead to fulfillment. High self-worth behavior like taking vacation will change your life, so what are you waiting for?
If you are someone who would love to take a spring break vacation, but simply can’t afford to go anywhere, you can always have a staycation in your own city; you can even stay in your own home. Take a few days off and explore different parts of your hometown. Maybe try a new restaurant, let yourself sleep in, make yourself a yummy meal, have a movie night in the middle of the week, do a face mask, take your family to an adventure park! It doesn’t matter what activities you choose as long as you choose something that gets you out of your day-to-day routine and into something new. The best way to get unstuck or out of a rut is to change up what you’re doing. Give it a go and watch your life change for the better. We’re rooting for you!