As a nation, we do a pretty poor job of relaxing. According to a 2009 survey by Expedia.com, approximately one-third (34%) of American workers don’t use all of their employer-allotted vacation time – and that number is up from 31% in 2008. Americans receive an average of 13 paid vacation days and typically leave 3 of those days unused.¹
But why? As Anne Fisher, columnist for CNNMoney.com puts it, “I never cease to be amazed by people who wouldn’t dream of giving back part of their paycheck, yet who don’t take the time off to which they are entitled.²” Whether employees feel they are too busy to be away from work, can’t afford to leave town, or simply never get around to planning a break, the fact is – most Americans are hurting themselves and their employers by not taking time to relax and rejuvenate away from the workplace.
Last month’s TherapyJobs.com survey found that 52% of therapists experience above average stress levels and that number may be on the rise. Increasing patient loads, uncertainties associated with new legislation, and battles with insurance companies continue to create stress in otherwise rewarding healthcare careers.
Even if your patient load is at an all time high, carving out time to take a break is essential – not only to maintain your personal sanity – but also in order to provide quality care to your patients on an ongoing basis. If you are not in a healthy state – both mentally and physically – how can you expect to teach good health to your patients?
Taking a break doesn’t have to mean spending money. The recession has made the “staycation” popular – that is, taking time off work without going out of town. So if you can’t afford to get away, you should still schedule time off from the workplace so you can decompress at home. Whether you take a “staycation” or are lucky enough to get out of town, here are some tips to make your time off more enjoyable.
1. Plan – While scheduling time off in advance can be tough, you will enjoy your time off much more if you adequately plan for it. Give your supervisor plenty of notice and make sure your patients know you will be away and make arrangements for adequate coverage. The more you do to prepare for your absence, the less you will worry about it while you are gone.
2. Unplug – Don’t check email or voicemail. If you’ve properly planned for your absence, you won’t need to call in to find out how everyone is coping without you. Use your time away to take a break from all thoughts about work. You will be more productive when you return if you truly disconnect while you are on vacation.
3. Relax – It may not come naturally, so you will need to make a conscious effort to relax. That means deep breathing, meditation, and reminding yourself to enjoy each moment. This is especially true if your vacation requires you to be in parent mode or your “staycation” involves endless errands and personal tasks. Regardless of your circumstances, carve out time to allow yourself to relax and unwind.
Time off is essential to maintaining a healthy work-life balance. Don’t add to the “vacation deprivation” statistics. Claim your time off and utilize every moment to make yourself a healthier, more productive person!