Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue


The Incredible Shrinking American Vacation

posted by Beyond Blue

Vacations are theoretical concepts that exist today only on paper. That’s according to Joe Robinson, work-life balance speaker, trainer, and author of “Don’t Miss Your Life.” His statistics are dire:

Some 25 percent of Americans and 31 percent of low-wage earners get no vacation at all anymore, according to the Center for Economic and Policy Research. This is because, unlike in 138 other countries around the world, you’re not entitled to a vacation longer than the current news cycle. You happen to live in a country that, along with the esteemed likes of Myanmar, the Guyanas and North Korea, has no minimum paid leave law to make vacations statutorily legit.

Now maybe it’s because I have been self-employed for most of my working life — and the few jobs I have held, I didn’t accrue enough time for a validated vacation — but for every day I have taken off, I have had to make up those hours either before I left or after I returned [Ed. - Me too!]. Which creates added stress either on the front end or the back end of this so-called “relaxing.” I have no recollection of a vacation in which I left everything on my desk as is, only to pick up after my return.

Does anybody really do that?

According to Jones, US employer would be wise to enforce vacations. These days off don’t subtract from the bottom line. They add to it. Especially what used to be the standard two weeks off. Writes Robinson in his Huffington Post blog:

Performance increases after a vacation, with reaction times going up 40 percent. Vacations cure burnout, the last stage of chronic stress and something very difficult to shake. Burned-out employees are a major liability to effective performance. They may be at the office physically, but output is next to nothing when cognitive, physical and emotional resources have been depleted. Vacations regather crashed resources and restore productive capacity. But it takes two weeks for the recuperative process to occur. Only 14 percent of Americans take more than one week of vacation at a time these days, according to a Harris poll….Performance increases with recharging and refueling, all the studies show.

Plenty of psychological studies attest to the benefits of vacation. Robinson mentions the one by Princeton’s Alan Krueger and Nobel-prize-winning researcher Daniel Kahneman that found that, of all the things on the planet (ants, elephants, and maybe plants?) human beings derive the most enjoyment from leisure and are happiest when they are involved in engaging leisure experiences.

Vacations are stress busters, too, of course. In fact, annual vacations cut the risk of heart attacks in men by 30 percent and by 50 percent in women. Leisure and rest build resiliency, and, as my doctor has told me plenty of times, it’s much easier to keep a person well, with less medication, than it is to improve a depressive state.

It’s true that most of us don’t get any assistance or incentive from our employers to take days off. However, I believe that, on some level, we are also afraid to change our environments and unplug for a bit. Because, as Richard Moss explains in his new book, Inside-Out Healing, allowing some down time in our lives isn’t always easy, even if we have accrued months of legitimate vacation time. He writes:

Taking a vacation can be notorious for stirring up the dark, as if something inside knows that the familiar daily busyness has been keeping you too distracted in ego-driven activity to attend to your soul’s calling. For the sake of essential regeneration and rebirth, you must go down into the abyss for awhile.

Perhaps this is why few people, especially in the US, ever allow themselves a real time of letting go. Instead they have a “vacation” (often restricted to a week) with a tight, demanding travel schedule where they have to see all the sights, try out all the best restaurants, and shop until they drop. Unstructured open time is too dangerous: the “monsters” from the deep that have been held at bay by compulsive or near compulsive activity might rear their ugly heads. The tragic truth of modern life is that it hardly leaves room for the necessary descent into the underworld that opens the heart, enriches humanity, and often rejuvenates the body.

I must confess. I totally get that. I think that’s one reason I haven’t attempted a retreat since college. They sort of scare me. I’m afraid I’m going to discover a really bad character defect that I’ll need to change, or another inner demon that I must add to the list. I’m uncomfortable with stillness.

I think most people are.

And yet, it’s in the stillness—in the quiet, unstructured space—that we are healed and made resilient to handle the bustling of our daily lives.

So if I can conjure up the courage, I just may try it this summer.

Originally posted on Psych Central.

Click here to subscribe to Beyond Blue and click here to follow Therese on Twitter and click here to join Group Beyond Blue, a depression support group. Now stop clicking.



Advertisement
Comments read comments(10)
post a comment
tmana

posted July 4, 2011 at 8:01 am


There are several reasons Americans don’t take long vacations — or don’t unplug when we do.

First, as mentioned, is the increasing number of workers who don’t accrue vacation. Many of these are seasonal workers, day workers, or contract workers, who — regardless of effort otherwise — often have a significant amount of downtime between jobs. (Ditto for workers who have been laid off, downsized, fired, etc.)

Second, for workers who accrue vacation, we need that paid time off to deal with doctor visits, sick spouses/children/parents, legal appointments, and all those other appointments that can only be scheduled during normal working hours. (Doctors and lawyers need time off for sleeping and eating, too!)

Third, many of our families are sufficiently distant from us, and/or we need down time often enough, that we prefer to take long weekends — often attached to our many legal holidays (most companies have 10-15 paid holidays per year — that’s the equivalent of 2-3 weeks vacation).

Fourth, the amount of work we have to catch up on when we go on vacation makes it more stressful to return from vacation than is worth the time we’ve spent on vacation. We may not have job redundancy (someone else who can pick up the slack — if so, one or the other of us will soon be downsized), or our job may be built around personal relationships that need to be nurtured, regardless of our personal time off. It was once said that most illnesses and fatal heart attacks occurred just before a planned vacation, and were due to the stress of putting one’s work life in order for being away from it, and the stress of packing for and getting to one’s vacation destination. These stresses are only increasing with the TSA’s increasingly-prohibitive “security” measures (which, BTW, only make me feel increasingly *less* secure about flying — which, in the end, is their real purpose, but that’s another diatribe).

Fifth, we’ve been told many times that if we are so unvaluable to the company that we can take two weeks off, unplugged, there’s no reason to keep us employed at that company. So even when we go away, we stay connected by laptop, smartphone, tablet computer, or Internet cafe.

Sixth, with today’s pace of business, we often need to take our paid time off to find the time to attend the professional development courses, conferences, and seminars that keep us from falling behind in our jobs, because we are not being kept up to date (or being trained) by our employers.

That’s just a handful of the reasons Americans don’t take vacations. It seems to me none are induced by the employer; most are related to the realities of modern life.



report abuse
 

Razz2

posted July 4, 2011 at 1:07 pm


“And yet, it’s in the stillness—in the quiet, unstructured space—that we are healed and made resilient to handle the bustling of our daily lives.”

When I was in recovery “unstructured time and space” were the worst thing for me. That’s when those addictive voices in my head would go to work telling me that I “needed/deserved” a drink. When my depression is at a deep and dark point, unstructured time works much the same way…..as I follow thoughts down darker and deeper paths. No, at those times it was more important to keep myself busy, often just doing “busy work”. However….. that is not all the time. In fact the longer I’m recovery the less often those “voices” even talk to me (although I have to be very mindful when I start feeling my depression worsen). We must also make sure that we understand the difference from “taking a vacation” in what has become the traditional sense and actually “taking time off”. Time off is that unstructured time and space and I totally agree that it is something that we all need and should make a priority. Just as an aside – being “between jobs” is neither because of the stress of not working can be just as bad as the stress of working.

If we want to we can find all kinds of perfectly good reasons why we don’t take vacation time or time off. However I think it still comes down to priorities and for me mental well being is on the top before a pay check. And in fact it doesn’t even have to conflict with needing that pay check, but creating that “down time” by adding it to our schedules if must be. It’s like finding the time to exercise…. that’s one that many people say they can’t do either. Yet if you’re motivated to do it it’s funny how we can actually find that time. We also may have to learn to say NO to outside obligations (even if they might help our careers). For what is the point of all of that if our minds and souls do not get the time they need to heal and re-generate.

Start small. Try getting up early to spend sometime in meditation or just enjoying your coffee while watching out the window ….. quiet time….. time to just let your mind “coast”. Quiet time, where you are not running down the activities of the day in your mind. Quiet time where you do not look at the clock but listen to the stillness. Make that time “sacred” and what ever your worldly obligations are, they can do without you for 30 mins. honest! Set a timer and boundaries if you must. But you have to want it and you have to make it a priority. It’s a gift to yourself and guess what all those around you will reap the benefits.

Razz2



report abuse
 

Maggie

posted July 4, 2011 at 3:08 pm


I totally agree with this post.Americans take too little vacation.I don’t think they’d know what to do with themselves if they didn’t always have something to do.I had a brother who took his family to Spain,staying right on the Mediterranean,and never touched their toe in it.They were on the road at 6am every morning with a day full of activities.I find that sad.My family and I until recently went on one if not two vacations every year,ocean front,and just enjoyed the ocean and Charleston,S.C. I think everyone should attempt to reconnect with their inner selves and slow down.



report abuse
 

Renee C

posted July 5, 2011 at 12:07 am


I am a registered nurse. It took almost three years of working in the hospital where i worked in the ICU to get enough senority to be able to get time off. The ICU and ED nurses have among most nurses the highest rate of burn out. Now who would you want to take care of you in a critical situation….someone who is well rested and quicker on their toes, and able to problem solve quickly (as well as babysit residents) or someone who can barely get through the day and is extremely fatigued.
Vacations are not only needed for a mental health break but a physical one as well. You can decompress, make time for friends and family, and do things for yourself. As a whole, this country needs to look at this policy and change it for the mental health of all Americans! Happy 4th all!



report abuse
 

Amy

posted July 5, 2011 at 1:00 pm


It’s the Economy, the Economy and the Ecomony. I haven’t been able to have a 2 week vacation since the ’90′s! Many reasons, most already stated but almost all have everything to do with our economic climate today. Employers can’t afford to offer and/or cover a vacationing employee anymore. Along with health care benefits, 401Ks, and employer sponsored daycare the American worker today is screwed in more ways than ever. Let us pray for our nation, our leaders and our ways that God may turn his face back to this country again!



report abuse
 

Sarah

posted July 6, 2011 at 11:38 am


“I’m afraid I’m going to discover a really bad character defect that I’ll need to change, or another inner demon that I must add to the list.”

YES! For me and probably a lot of people it comes down to fear….fear of the unknown, the unknown of what will happen or be discovered if we are still, silent, rested. I am trying to just make time to do that each day or each week without running anxiously from that and sometimes even literally creating things for myself to do.

I just stepped into a position where I can actually accrue paid sick leave and paid personal leave, its weird that though I have only gained 1 day off, I am already dreading the thought of what I will do with it, OR if I will just “waste” it by taking one of my Graduate school classes in an intensive format instead of at night….BUT I am determined to figure this out and face the fear.

Sabbath – one of the first things God commanded of us, yet often one of the last things we choose to work on or pick up as a spiritual discipline.



report abuse
 

Yeoman

posted July 7, 2011 at 8:43 am


Not only are vacations disappearing, but weekends too.

I am (unfortunately) a lawyer and I routinely work, by necessity, six days out of seven, and seven out of seven quite a few weeks. That’s not good. But it’s just not me, a lot of the people who work with me on cases (I’m a litigator) are working weekends and evenings also.

People shouldn’t be working from early in the morning to late at night, and six out of seven days, week after week. But the current impulses of our economy require it. Something has gone really wrong.



report abuse
 

Jean

posted July 13, 2012 at 9:00 am


I would soooo love a vacation. But I look after a relative with dementia who is unable to call a cell phone number….so no vacation for me. To pretend I’m on vacation, I watch the Rick Steves’ travel programs on PBS; they’re very relaxing.



report abuse
 

cheap vacation packages from nyc

posted August 20, 2012 at 5:12 am


If we want to we can find all kinds of perfectly good reasons why we don’t take vacation time or time off. However I think it still comes down to priorities and for me mental well being is on the top before a pay check. And in fact it doesn’t even have to conflict with needing that pay check, but creating that “down time” by adding it to our schedules if must be. It’s like finding the time to exercise…. that’s one that many people say they can’t do either. Yet if you’re motivated to do it it’s funny how we can actually find that time. We also may have to learn to say NO to outside obligations (even if they might help our careers). For what is the point of all of that if our minds and souls do not get the time they need to heal and re-generate.



report abuse
 

Anty

posted November 22, 2012 at 5:01 pm


If you planning for vacation with your family then i suggesting that don’t get dissapointed that you have fatigue your plan. Go to santa barbara vacation homes and sees the real vacaition pleasure.



report abuse
 

Post a Comment

By submitting these comments, I agree to the beliefnet.com terms of service, rules of conduct and privacy policy (the "agreements"). I understand and agree that any content I post is licensed to beliefnet.com and may be used by beliefnet.com in accordance with the agreements.



Previous Posts

Seven Ways to Get Over an Infatuation
“Bewitched, bothered, and bewildered am I” wrote US songwriter Lorenz Hart about the feeling of infatuation. It’s blissful and euphoric, as we all know. But it’s also addicting, messy and blinding. Without careful monitoring, its wild wind can rage through your life leaving you much like the

posted 12:46:43pm Feb. 19, 2014 | read full post »

When Faith Turns Neurotic
When does reciting scripture become a symptom of neurosis? Or praying the rosary an unhealthy compulsion? Not until I had the Book of Psalms practically memorized as a young girl did I learn that words and acts of faith can morph into desperate measures to control a mood disorder, that faithfulness

posted 10:37:13am Jan. 14, 2014 | read full post »

How to Handle Negative People
One of my mom’s best pieces of advice: “Hang with the winners.” This holds true in support groups (stick with the people who have the most sobriety), in college (find the peeps with good study habits), and in your workplace (stay away from the drama queen at the water cooler). Why? Because we

posted 10:32:10am Jan. 14, 2014 | read full post »

8 Coping Strategies for the Holidays
For people prone to depression and anxiety – i.e. human beings – the holidays invite countless possibility to get sucked into negative and catastrophic thinking. You take the basic stressed-out individual and you increase her to-do list by a third, stuff her full of refined sugar and processed f

posted 9:30:12am Nov. 21, 2013 | read full post »

Can I Say I’m a Son or Daughter of Christ and Suffer From Depression?
In 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, we read: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” What if we aren’t glad, we aren’t capable of rejoicing, and even prayer is difficult? What if, instead, everything looks dark,

posted 10:56:04am Oct. 29, 2013 | read full post »




Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.