When it comes to holidays, quantity beats quality – you don’t always need to be booking long, resort accommodation vacations to get the most benefit for your buck.
I usually take two short holidays throughout the year as well as the regular Christmas break. But last year I decided to forgo holidays because I'd spent a chunk of savings on home renovations and thought it would be better to enjoy my new look digs than spend more money on going away.
I’ll never be so silly again.
By the end of the year, I was burned out, unhappy with work, grumpy with friends and loved ones and feeling generally unwell and unbalanced. It took me my entire Christmas holidays to recover.
If I’d taken the trouble to read up on the science, I would have known that taking multiple short breaks from your work is necessary for your mental, emotional and physical health.
In fact, According to a study recently published in Psychosomatic Medicine, my not taking at least one holiday during the year increased my risk of mortality as well as burn out. The researchers found that rates of cardiovascular disease skyrocket for workaholics that refuse to take a break – so I wasn’t only making myself super unhappy; I was courting death, too.
A mass of research has shown the cardiovascular benefits of taking leave from work. Those at risk for heart disease who skip holidays for five years are thirty per cent more likely to have a heart attack or die of coronary-related causes than those who take just a week off annually.
A healthy holiday habit, it seems, is as essential as good sleep habits. The human brain and body needs to alternate work with rest and recovery to function at optimal capacity. We're not made to be workaholics, spending all our time at the office without a break.
Another study in the Journal of Happiness (yes, that’s a real publication!) found that the perfect holiday break is seven to eleven days – depending on how long it takes you to let go of workplace stress and really, truly relax.
It also suggests you should space out your holidays frequently throughout the year, perhaps taking four separate eight-day breaks (bookending five days of paid leave with weekends, presuming four weeks of paid holiday leave per year).
By planning these multiple breaks ahead of time, you ensure you’ve always got something to look forward to – even if you’re working extra hard during the rest of the year. Some studies even suggest that the best part of a holiday is the planning and anticipation – so you can extend out that excitement even further.
Some experts argue that unplanned holidays can sometimes be more rewarding than meticulously planned long vacations – because too-detailed planning can be stressful work, too. So this year I’m going to ‘spontaneously’ take myself off to enjoy some hot springs and soak away tension for a while in natural pools amongst nature.
As you can see, I’ve started anticipating my four eight-day breaks to relieve work stress and recharge my batteries. The studies are right – it’s a lot of fun dreaming up the perfect escape. I’m feeling much happier already.