For health’s sake, take a vacation!

– by Mike Vizena,  director of the Michigan Association of Community Mental Health Boards

In Michigan, the July 4th holiday marks summer kicking in to full gear, with weekends boating on the lake, bonfires and summer cookouts with family and friends. While some are saddened that the weeks of warm weather are on the downswing, others view July and August as prime vacation time.

Expedia, one of the largest online travel agencies, conducted a survey in 2010 about vacation time spent in the U.S. According to its data, the average American earned 18 vacation days, but only used 14. Vacation time is given for a reason, and if not used, can cause work burnout, spurring overwhelming stress and depression. By taking the summer trip you have been pushing off, you are giving your body the break it needs, and improving your mental health.

Since more employees are taking less vacation time, mental health breakdowns are on the rise. The Healthy Thinking Initiative, a study compiled by the American Psychological Association, states that two-thirds of men and women say that work has a significant impact on their stress level. With stress comes both physical and mental health issues, and the only way to improve your health is by taking care of yourself, and recognizing the signs that you need break.

Below are five reasons why you should take a summer vacation:

• Something to look forward to. Planned vacation time helps us see the light at the end of the tunnel. Not only do you get a break from the stressors of work, but you have something to look forward to. In many cases, this reduces stress levels, gives you motivation at work, and contributes to your productivity in the office.

• Return refreshed. The vacation you have always wanted to take might just be exactly what you need. Allowing yourself to take a mental health break gives you the opportunity to put work worries behind, gain a fresh perspective, and relax. Workers that do this return to the office energized, ready to work, and mentally healthy.

• Time to rest. Burnout occurs much too frequently, and workers often allow it to reach the point where mental health is jeopardized. One of the main causes of work burnout is exhaustion, and time off is the only cure.

• Strengthen close ties. Oftentimes, the people close to us take the back seat as we plow through work. This can cause strain on our relationships, which adds more stress to our lives. A vacation is the perfect solution to restore close ties, and spend time with the people you love.

• Get out, get active. Taking a vacation can mean more fresh air and more time outside being active. The extra physical activity is not only good for the body, but it rejuvenates the mind. Those that are eating right and routinely exercise also increase their mental health by fighting exhaustion, job dissatisfaction, burnout, and negative self perspectives.

If you haven’t planned your next vacation, the time to start is now. Don’t work your summer away. Instead, try to establish balance in your life. Get out of the office, leave your workload behind, and clear your mind of office stress. Sometimes a vacation is the only way to fight off work burnout, and create mental health clarity.