Well, today is Friday and the first official day of summer for my kids. Last night I attended my eldest son’s 8th grade graduation ceremony after a full week of class parties, awards assemblies and teacher appreciation celebrations. I put away the lunch boxes with a silent shout of thanks for the two and a half month respite from having to figure out how to pack an affordable, healthy lunch for four children, while being sensitive to the allergy concerns of every other child in the school. I threw 27 folders full of worksheets straight into the garbage can, along with four pencil boxes full of nubby pencils, broken crayons and pen caps that look like my kids have been using them to cut teeth. When I leave work today, I am embarking on a one-week vacation to one of my favorite places in all the world – Ocracoke, North Carolina where I intend to do absolutely nothing for 7 days.
And of course… like all good mothers, spouses and employees, I feel a little guilty. The thought of leaving the responsibilities of my home, pets and work in the hands of others for a week is borderline painful for my all too Type A, perfectionist personality. Let’s face it, rest doesn’t always come easily. In a world where performance matters and achievement is mandatory, I think most of us struggle to admit, let alone embrace, the fact that our bodies and our minds quite simply need a little vacation. But they do!
In fact, the New York Times reported that taking a vacation can actually improve your physical health and that both men and women who take a vacation every two years compared to every six will lessen the risk of coronary heart disease or heart attacks. According to Elaine Eaker, author of a study by the Framingham Heart Study, “This is real evidence that vacations are important to your physical health.”
And that’s really no surprise. With exercise, for example, your body needs both periods of strenuous activity combined with periods of rest in order to maximize training effects. In much the same way, periods of work combined with periods of relaxation maximize productivity. According to about.com, taking time off to rejuvenate will help insulate you from the symptoms of burnout that arise from accumulated pressure and discouragement, making you “more creative and productive than [your] overworked, under-rested counterparts.”
But that’s not all. “When you’re stressed out and tired, you are more likely to become ill, your arteries take a beating and you’re more likely to have an accident. Your sleep will suffer, you won’t digest your food as well, and even the genetic material in the cells of your body may start to become altered in a bad way,” says Dr. Susan Krauss Whitbourne, a professor of psychology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She asserts that mentally “you become more irritable, depressed and anxious and your memory will become worse and you’ll make poorer decisions. You’ll also be less fun to be with, causing you to become more isolated, lonely and depressed.” Similarly, Dr. Ellen Langer, a psychology professor at Harvard University, told CNN that mindless, uninterrupted routines tend to result in boredom, which hinders creativity and mindfulness and is, therefore, counterproductive.
So what’s the bottom line? You need a vacation!! From your computer and your commute. From your laundry and your laptop. From your yard work and your yoga class From your shopping list and your smart phone. You need to get away! As the New York Times reported, “Human beings aren’t designed to expend energy continuously. Rather, we’re meant to pulse between spending and recovering energy.” In other words, we need to work hard and play hard in order to maintain a healthy balance in our lives.
So maybe I’m self-justifying or simply looking for research to back me up and ease the uncomfortable guilt I’m feeling at the thought of a responsibility-free week at the beach, but I don’t think so! There’s a reason the research is there. Vacations are as important to our mental and physical health as maintaining a regular exercise regime and healthy diet. Vacations provide extended periods of rest as well as offering us a new perspective.
Luckily for me, I work for people who understand this completely and make vacation time an easy request. Even if you don’t, however, maintaining your physical and mental health is one of the most important things you can do, not only for yourself, but also your employer. Don’t let guilt or the thought that your company can’t manage without you for a few days keep you from taking the time off your body and mind need to function properly. I am a part of an industry where health and health maintenance really matter so preventive care is always on my mind. Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina makes this a top priority. But whatever industry you are a part of, the facts remain the same – you need vacation time.
This summer, take the people you love to a place you love and discover the health benefits of a good old fashioned summer vacation!
For more information on Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina health insurance coverage, the Marketplace and healthcare gov to apply for your subsidy, please visit our website at www.nchealthplans.com or call our toll free number 888-765-5400 and speak with one of our experienced and professional agents. Let us help you navigate through the Health Care Reform changes in accordance with the new regulations of The Affordable Care Act, also known as Obama care.