Take a Break From Stress: Why We Need Vacations
Are you working too hard? Are life's stressors affecting your health?

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Picture of man and woman on vacation Take a Break From Stress: Why We Need Vacations

Vacations can rejuvenate your mind, body, and spirit. They can relieve stress and give your body a rest. They also give you the time to slow down, stop, and smell the roses. And everyone needs to do that.

Stress at work
Stress at work can affect your physical health. According to the American Psychological Association, three fourths of those responding to a poll reported physical symptoms from workplace stress. And half of those polled said they don't take their allotted vacation time because they are too busy. But this type of stress can lead to long-term health problems, just as smoking, alcohol abuse, or overeating can.

Stress can lead to numerous health problems, including:

  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Upset stomach and more-severe gastrointestinal problems, such as GERD and colitis
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Frequent colds
  • Heart problems
  • Stroke
  • High blood pressure
  • Insomnia
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Auto immune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis
  • Some forms of cancer

Slowing down the pace
The best way to get away from that stress is to take time away from work. You may want to take a day off here and there, or you may want to block out a whole week or two of vacation time. If you have kids, this could be the time to take them on that trip you've been saving for. But if finances rule out an expensive trip, there are still lots of fun ways to spend time with the family. Visit a water or amusement park, have a backyard barbecue, or go swimming in the nearest pool. In winter, try a day of sledding or ice skating.

If you're single and you've saved enough for that cruise or island getaway you've been dreaming of, why not do it now? If you're not traveling, maybe you and a friend can treat yourselves to dinner at your favorite restaurant, go to a show, or take a day trip to a nearby resort.

Tips to help you relax
To be sure your time off gives you what you need, set rules for yourself - and don't break them. Here are some ways to get the most out of your time off:

  • Staying home? Promise yourself you'll avoid unnecessary housework while you're off. If you're tripping over the laundry and can't find anything to wear, throw a load in the washer. But if there's dust on the coffee table, let it lie there for a week.
  • Turn off your cell phone. Unless your job requires you to check in, let the voicemail take your calls and wait to check your e-mail. Enjoy the peaceful sound of your phone not ringing.
  • Get lots of activity. Want to take a vacation from your regular exercise routine? Go ahead! Replace it with a more enjoyable activity. Walk through the zoo with your kids or go for a swim. In the wintertime, plan a ski trip.
  • Avoid stress. If you're staying home, send the kids to a sleep over. Then spend your day and evening doing whatever makes you happy - and enjoy the peace and quiet.
  • Try something new. Have you always wanted to learn to play tennis, go rock climbing, or spend a day being pampered at a spa? Give yourself a mental pick-me-up by doing something special you've never made time for.

Taking care of yourself
When you take that nap on the beach, do it without guilt. Just remember to stay in the shade. Keep yourself healthy, Eat right, use sunscreen, buckle up, and drink plenty of fluids. Getting enough sleep is also important. You don't want to waste any vacation days by getting sick.

By Diane Griffith, Staff Writer
Created on 07/22/2008
Updated on 06/03/2011
  • American Psychological Association. Overwhelmed by workplace stress? You're not alone.
  • American Institute of Stress. Effects of stress.
Copyright © OptumHealth.
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