Vacations are not only fun; they’re good for your health. Researchers have found that people who go on vacations have lower amounts of stress hormones, have lower blood pressure and are less likely to be overweight than people who don’t take vacations. The Framingham Heart Study , which began in 1948, found that men who did not take vacations were 30 percent more likely to suffer heart attacks than men who did. Similarly, women who took vacations only once every six years were nearly eight times as likely to suffer a heart attack or develop heart disease than were women who vacationed twice a year.
The Marshfield Clinic conducted a study during which they surveyed 1,500 women. The researchers found that women who vacationed once every two years or less were more likely to suffer depression than were women who vacationed twice a year. In a similar vein, women who took vacations slept better and had happier marriages than women who did not.
Shortchanging Vacation Time
All evidence points to the fact that people need vacations to stay healthy. Unfortunately, Americans tend to shortchange themselves when it comes to vacations. According to Glassdoor’s Q1 2014 Employment Confidence Survey, employees in the U.S., on average, use only half of their available vacation time. In addition, 61 percent of the respondents admitted to doing some work while on vacation, 24 percent were contacted by a co-worker while on vacation, and 20 percent were contacted by their boss while on vacation.
Technology exacerbates the problem. Taking along one’s smartphone on vacation makes it too easy for the boss or a co-worker to call a vacationer about something related to work. Similarly, people can read emails on either their own laptop or a computer provided by a hotel. Consequently, the lines between work and vacation have been blurred, which makes it harder for people to maintain a balance between work and the rest of their life.
The Myth of Multi-tasking
Many people believe that they can multi-task or do several things at once. According to Dr. Edward Hallowell, the director of the Hallowell Center for Cognitive and Emotional Health, multi-tasking actually involves switching our focus between two or more tasks. Hallowell adds that the cerebral cortex can really pay attention to only one thing at a time. Trying to switch attention from one task to another results in a substandard performance on both.
Other Problems With Working Through Vacations
Attempting to multi-task while on vacation takes away from the joy of the vacation. Someone who spends all their time texting while visiting the Grand Canyon or a Greek villa is not giving the spectacular site his or her full and undivided attention. They are depriving themselves of the opportunity to form undiluted memories of the place they’re visiting.
A person who spends time working on vacation may even be inconsiderate of their traveling companions. Forcing the kids, spouse or grandparent to wait for them to work on their computer is not fair to those family members. Most people get only one chance to visit something like the Eiffel Tower or the Bahamas, but office work is something people encounter every day. The next time you’re on vacation, be sure to leave the electronics off to fully enjoy the benefits of a vacation.