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Not taking vacation days seems to be an American pastime. In fact, according to a Glassdoor survey, 54 percent of Americans only use about half of their vacation days while only 23 percent of Americans use all of them. Two-thirds of those who take time off don’t completely leave work behind when they do.
“More employees are doing work and thinking about work while on vacation,” Scott Dobroski, Glassdoor community expert, commented in the survey. “Technology is a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing because it can allow parents to take off at 3 p.m. and see their child’s soccer game during the week. But it’s a curse because you can take off for vacation time and be sitting on a beautiful beach and log into your inbox.”
Dobroski also says that fear is the number one reason employees don’t take a vacation. They’re worried they’ll get so behind on their work, they’ll never catch up when they return. They’re also worried that if they leave, they’ll be replaced.
“Even with the economy going well, I still fear a layoff,” says Mitch, a Phoenix resident who participated in the survey. “I want to have all my vacation in the bank so I can get a payout to help cushion the job loss.”
However, science shows that those who don’t take their vacation days should be more afraid of layoffs than those who do. Not going on vacation can lead to burnout, lost productivity, reduced creativity, and muddled mental clarity, all of which can seriously affect your work performance.
Taking your vacation days, no matter your occupation, could be exactly what you need. Here are some signs that you’re desperately in need of the rejuvenation that comes with a vacation:
- You’re Not Sleeping Well
Many travelers report being able to sleep better when they’re on vacation. There’s a simple explanation: You’re less stressed.
“Many people don’t make the connection that when they’re on vacation, they’re probably not relying as much on caffeine—there’s no late afternoon meeting to power through,” Cleveland Clinic wellness manager Kristin Kirkpatrick told the Huffington Post.
Taking time away to sleep in a temperature-controlled hotel with a quality mattress, pillows, and maid service can help you catch up on much-needed sleep and get back to life feeling less stressed.
- Your Emotions Are Out of Control
Suddenly, tiny molehills turn into mountains and you’re struggling to hold back the tears when you get home. It’s not uncommon to feel overwhelmed at work, but letting it continue without a break will only make your situation worse.
Taking a vacation allows you to decompress. You can outlet negative emotions through positive experiences, restoring your ability to handle the ups and downs at work.
- You’re Becoming Cynical
Everyday tasks become boring, meetings are a drag, and you can’t even muster positivity for donut Fridays. Cynical thoughts often stew in your brain when you’re overworked and stressed, and it’s hard to find positivity and satisfaction at work.
In the short term, Andrew Shatte, PhD and stress resilience expert recommends: “If you have an upsetting conversation with someone at the office, jump on the phone with another long-term colleague and ask to chat for a few minutes. You want to balance out the bad experiences with even more good ones.”
In the long term, Shatte recommends taking a vacation. There’s no better way to gather enough positive experiences to balance out the bad.
- You’re Making Mistakes at Work
“Whether it’s errors on financial reports or customer transactions, if you find you’re making more mistakes than usual, it could be a sign you need to reboot your mental hardware,” Michael Kerr, renowned business speaker and author of The Humor Advantage, told Business Insider.
There’s really no better way to reboot your system than to take a few days off. Change your scenery, whether it’s a beach, mountain town, or even a visit to a city two hours away. Getting away will restore some of your mental clarity and sharpen your attention to detail.
- You’re Drinking Too Much
Drinking, even a glass of wine, right after work is a coping mechanism that many employees use for stressful situations. However, it’s not a healthy one, and some will form a debilitating dependence.
Rather than reaching for the wine cabinet when you get home, schedule your next vacation. It will give you something to look forward to and take the edge off your stress. When you return, you’ll feel less stressed and be able to drink for recreation rather than as a necessity for handling stress.