give brain a break

Vacation is vital to your happiness and your mental health #BrainBreak #TakeIt @Terri_Cole {CLICK TO TWEET}

Did you know that almost half of all workers in the US will not take all of their allotted vacation days this year. Does that sound crazy to you or are you one of them? I used to fall into that category but am now reformed. Up until as recently as 2009 I would work on every vacation. I would still talk to certain clients, keep my phone on and check email twice a day.

Not exactly relaxing or restorative.

Then one of my nearest and dearest pals, Kris Carr called me to tell me about a specialist she’d seen in Chicago who wrote her an actual prescription to take at least two long vacations a year, to work 4 days a week and NEVER ON WEEKENDS (he wrote it on a prescription pad!) He was convinced that overworking was very detrimental to physical and mental well being. We discussed it for a long time and got honest about how both of us were still working way too much and made a girlfriend pact to stop working on vacations and to figure out how to take more time off. For me it was an adjustment at first. Once I got used to the idea, I realized how draining being “on” all the time was and how much better I felt after time off where I was unplugged and present. I am happy to report that eight years later we are both regularly keeping our promise. This summer, Kris was off the grid camping and communing with nature (and her hubs, Brian) and Vic and I spent time driving through Europe, visiting family and relaxing (I intentionally opted not to get the international calling plan!)

How good are you at taking off and then more importantly being off?

Perhaps it’s guilt, workaholism or the martyr complex that keeps many people working without a break. However, research is proving more and more that vacation is a vital part of a healthy and happy life. Working hard may give you a sense of mastery and purpose but your brain is an organ and needs time to rest and reset. A vacation can provide the brain with a much needed break from processing, analytical thought, work pressure and stress.

While some people like to vacation alone, most prefer to travel with friends and family. For this reason vacation can also deepen your connection to those you love. According to Psychology expert Susan Krauss Whitbourne, “Shared family memories and time spent together isolated from ordinary everyday activities (school, work and so on) help to promote these positive ties. Though family vacations can have their own share of stress, the benefits outweigh the risks, even in families that are not particularly close.”

In addition to spending time with those you love, being on vacation often creates feelings of ease and relaxation which is healthy for the mind, heart and body. Stress can literally kill you. So, it is imperative that you balance it out with time off from work and away from everyday life stressors. Consider vacation a form of extended meditation 😉

With only eight weeks left this year I want to encourage you to take a break. Even if you plan a staycation, remember the importance (especially during the holiday season) of letting the brain rest and reset. This time of year tends to be busier than any other and while using a few vacation days might be the last thing you think you have time for, it just may be exactly what you need.

Now I want to hear from you! What was the last vacation you took? Tell me about it. Also, if you have any planned time off in the next few months I want to know about that too. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you don’t have the time or means to take a vacation. There are lots of ways to get creative with time off. You deserve a rest and your brain and body need it. I encourage you to plan something soon, if you haven’t already and allow yourself to simply relax and enjoy. You so deserve it.

As always, take care of you.

Love Love Love




*image courtesy of Esparta Palma

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  1. Terri, such wise counsel. I’m getting ready to take a 3 month sabbatical beginning in mid-December. There’s such a seduction in being needed that it’s easy to forget we need ourselves, refreshed and present!

    1. Enjoy every minute, Gail! You’re absolutely right about the seduction of being busy and feeling needed, well put. Have a wonderful sabbatical (I hope part of it is spent somewhere warm 🙂 )

  2. I took a two-week vacation to England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales in September to take advantage of being unemployed and before starting a new job where I only get 10 days per year off, including sick time. How to vacation in the U.S. with so little time off work and homes, families and health to take care of on days off!

    1. That’s so wonderful you were able to take a European vacation, Gina! I hope you enjoy your new job and that you can stretch those ten days to get as much relaxation and family time that you need. Sending lots of love, Terri

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