I returned from a week’s vacation yesterday.

 

I admit I did work each day, but it was concentrated. When you run your own business, it’s difficult to completely disconnect. To mitigate the impact, though, I set aside an hour each morning to read and return emails and scan the major news sites for events that were relevant to my work. Then I turned off the computer and went for a walk with my dog, Zena, my intrepid road manager.

 

It’s hard to break the work cycle for me, and my guess is, it’s the same for many of you. According to a recent survey the average U.S. employee takes only half of their employer-allotted vacation time. That’s not good. There’s plenty of research that shows that taking time to de-stress is good for your health, your happiness, and your career.

 

Unleash the power of unwinding

 

Here are my top five reasons I take vacation and you should, too.

 

  • I reflect. I write in a journal. If I’m traveling, I note new experiences, things that pushed me out of my comfort zone. I write about food, smells, sights, people. It helps me focus on feelings and experiences–both internal and external– to get in touch with my inner self, to find ballast, to slow down.

 

  • I am present. If I’m sitting on a porch at my sister’s lake house in South Carolina overlooking the water, as I was this past week, I consciously turn off the inner voice telling me what needs to be done and when and why. With my morning coffee beside me, I pay attention to the color of the water, or the coating of mist rising off it as the sun slowly emerges and warms it. I emotionally and mentally remind myself how grateful I am in the moment. For example, one moon-lit evening, as we returned by boat to our dock from a delicious dinner at a lakeside restaurant, I watched with joy as my 87-year-old mom high-fived her two granddaughters. They were gazing upward together at the full moon, as they rode riding three abreast in the bow of the boat. It was a moment I will treasure.

 

  • I rebalance my portfolio. I’m not talking about my investment portfolio, but rather my inner one. Without all the distractions of my work day, which is often filled with meeting deadlines, phone calls and so forth, I take stock. Where is my world out of whack? I scan my emotions to identify where my stress points have been. What runs through my mind at night that makes me worry? How can I make changes in my life to address those concerns? I write in my journal a fresh set of priorities, not just work goals-but relationship, financial, and personal goals. It’s like a snapshot in time, with a forward projection of where I’d like to see changes made and how I can do that by the choices I make. It’s a wish list with action steps.

 

  • I learn or discover something new. It’s hard to press the off switch on my quest to achieve, but I redirect that into learning something different unrelated to my job, say, standup paddleboarding, wakeskating, or simply reading a book on a topic that interests me, or about a person I admire. The first, I highly recommend for a physical reminder of the importance of balance and strength in your life. The second will depend on your love of fast boats and active water sports. Another way to do this: Explore a new town without an agenda, or a mapped-out set of "must-sees" – something my husband and I love to do on vacation. We meander, stay open for the unexpected, perhaps, a turn down a cobble-stoned street that captures our eye, a saunter into a quirky bookstore, or café.

 

  • I savor relationships and build memories. It might be making a peach cobbler for the first time with my niece, or preparing the decades-old family potato salad, or chocolate chip cookies for the dinner, and then happily sharing it all together around the rough-hewn wooden table, watching the sunset, and laughing at something funny that happened that day.

 

Finally, taking regular vacation breaks creates an inner shift. It’s a bit like the replenishing oil change and topping off of the essential engine fluids my Subaru Outback demands on a regular schedule to stay in peak performance. I head back to work and home life with a clearer, smoother running engine. I’m energized. My brain is sharper and more creative. And the planning begins for the next one.

 

If you find yourself skipping vacation because you can’t afford the time away, hit the pause button. Set aside twenty minutes or so before bedtime and do some soul-searching in your journal. Write about what vacation means to you, reminisce about a favorite getaway, or your best childhood vacation. Whenever I do this exercise, I smile, breathe a little deeper, and am reminded of how important it is to give ourselves permission to unwind.

 

 

230528

 

 

Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association of America has sponsored Ask the Expert posts for informational purposes only. Many of the experts are unaffiliated with Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association of America, College Retirement Equities Fund, and their affiliates and subsidiaries (collectively TIAA), and TIAA makes no representations regarding the accuracy or completeness of any information on the posts or otherwise made available by the experts. Statements of external featured experts are solely their own and are not endorsed or recommended by TIAA.

 

 

Responses from experts to questions posed by Woman2Woman community members are intentionally general in nature and are not intended to give personal, financial, or specific advice. Some strategies are complex, and more information is often needed to determine the personal needs of a community member. We strongly recommend that you consult with a financial advisor before taking any action based on an expertʼs opinion or other information you obtain from the Woman2Woman:Financial Living site so that all of your personal circumstances can be taken into consideration. Participation in the site does not render the member a client of the expert or of TIAA.

 

This site is not designed to accept or respond to requests or complaints regarding specific TIAA accounts, products or services. If you wish to discuss an issue of that nature, please contact TIAA at 800 842-2252. TIAA is not responsible for any opinions provided by members of this site. TIAA is not responsible for the content or privacy policies of third-party sites to which you may link.

 

The TIAA group of companies does not offer tax or legal advice. You should consult an independent tax or legal advisor for advice based on your own particular circumstances.

 

The material and responses are for informational or educational purposes only and do not constitute a recommendation or investment advice in connection with a distribution, transfer or rollover, a purchase or sale of securities or other investment property, or the management of securities or other investments, including the development of an investment strategy or retention of an investment manager or advisor. The material and responses do not take into account any specific objectives or circumstances of any particular individual, or suggest any specific course of action. Investment decisions should be made in consultation with an investorʼs personal advisor based on the investorʼs own objectives and circumstances.

 

Investment, insurance and annuity products are not FDIC insured, are not bank guaranteed, are not deposits, are not insured by any federal government agency, are not a condition to any banking service or activity, and may lose value.

 

Experts may not have medical or scientific training. Any information related to physical or emotional health is not intended to be used in place of a consultation with a physician.

 

TIAA is not responsible for the statements of community members. We may link to posts made by community members only to direct you to topics that may be of interest to you. This does not mean that we agree with the opinions of these community members. Their statements are solely their own and are not endorsed or recommended by TIAA.

 

TIAA-CREF Individual & Institutional Services, LLC, Teachers Personal Investors Services, Inc., and Nuveen Securities, LLC, Members FINRA and SIPC, distribute securities products.

 

© 2017 and prior years, Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association of America - College Retirement Equities Fund, 730 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10017