American workers already receive fewer vacation days than their European counterparts, yet more than 40 percent of us don’t even take full advantage of our paid time off, according to the 2014 U.S. Travel Association Project: Time Off study.1 And if you’re anything like me, you’ve spent more than one “vacation” answering work emails and taking phone calls.

Too many of us simply fail to spend our vacation time doing what people are meant to do on vacation. That is, re-energize and de-stress. It’s important to disconnect from the demands of the office and reconnect with yourself, your family and friends. Give yourself permission not to have a long “to-do” list for a few days. Instead, use your time to revitalize your personal relationships, enjoy a hobby you haven’t had time to indulge in and get some exercise while having fun.

And if you (or your boss) worry that taking a vacation is bad for business, take comfort in this finding from that same 2014 Travel Association study: When workers don’t take vacations, it lowers their productivity levels and negatively affects the economy.1

Taking time off also has other tangible, positive effects on your health. Multiple studies have found that taking annual vacations:

  • Lowers your heart disease risk. Your chances of dying from heart disease could be lowered by more than an impressive 30 percent, just by lying on a beach or taking a road trip.
  • Lessens depression and anxiety. People feel less stressed and more satisfied with life when they have some time for themselves, with no deadlines to meet.
  • Improves family relationships

Of course, adding to your debt will not help your stress level, so be sure to keep your vacations within a reasonable budget. You don’t always have to travel to reap the relaxation benefits of taking some time away from work: Simply turn off your phone, spend the day at the beach, get a massage or catch a movie with friends. I also like to use my time off to re-dedicate myself to getting enough sleep. We all know that sleep deprivation wreaks havoc on our cognitive abilities, not to mention how irritable we become when we’re tired. So for your health, job efficiency and sanity, take those days off; after all, you’ve earned them!


1 U.S. News, “8 Ways to Vacation Right and Recharge Your Health,” July 28, 2015.

2 Huffington Post, “Health Benefits of Taking a Vacation,” March 4, 2016.