Why vacations are important for health

Researchers have found that vacation is also valuable for mental health and well-being.

“Vacation is essential to reset and remind yourself that career is not the be-all and end-all. There are other facets to a healthy existence [outside work],” said Sherry Amatenstein, a New York City-based therapist and editor of the anthology “How Does That Make You Feel? True Confessions from Both Sides of the Therapy Couch.”

That mental break doesn’t just feel good. It also benefits businesses — which is probably why even though Western European workers have more time off than the US does, generous vacation policies haven’t been found to affect productivity.

Schulte says that all the research points in the same direction. Those who don’t take time off are “sicker, less productive, stressed, and more anxious and depressed—that affects your work as well.”

She says it behooves managers, CEOs and leaders to create systems that prioritize a culture of vacation. Requiring workers to take time off or including vacation planning as a part of performance reviews are two ways to make sure time off is used—all of which will benefit the bottom line.

For the individual, it might sound strange, but vacations take practice, said Schulte. “The more we take that time, the more we want it,” she said.

So, how do you get in the vacation habit? Like any other goal, it requires planning.

“The key reason people give for not taking vacations is that they don’t feel they can leave work,” says Schulte, but you can if you’re organized.

Start by “writing in your calendar beforehand when to schedule time for a trip,” said Amatenstein. Once the vacation is in your schedule—even if it’s six or eight months from now—you can organize around it.

Look at your workflow. In your own schedule, “clarify your priorities, delegate, and talk openly with your colleagues about your time off,” says Schulte, so it’s not an unexpected surprise when you’re out of town. Schulte says that planning will force you to prioritize your goals over time and can be a net benefit, helping you work smarter and more efficiently.

Start viewing vacation time as a non-negotiable—like the dentist or yearly checkup, it’s a vital part of your health care, so start treating it as such.