Take some time for yourself before it's too late!

by DavalosMcCormack on April 30, 2008

We just got back from a fabulous 2 week vacation. I never used to take 2 week vacations because I worked in television as a producer for a “live” show and somewhere along the line I got it into my head that if I took a 2 week vacation “they” (the management) would find out that they could do without me. I loved my job and it took me years of crawling up the ladder one rung at a time to get to be the “Producer” of a daily talk show. I had seen the folks who took a two week vacation arrive back at the station to their desk, only to find all their personal belongings crammed into a cardboard box followed by an unceremonious escort to the door and right out of the building directly into the unemployment line. Yes, television is like that.

It never occurred to me that the television station was cruel and inhumane, it was just a fact of life. My strategy for staying employed was never to take 2 weeks off; in fact, I would work long hours and even come in on weekends thinking that somehow this would insure my tenure. Guess what, it didn’t. No duh!

So I went years without any long term vacations. Oh sure, I would take a few days off, maybe a Friday or Monday and have a 3 or 4 day vacation but never 2 weeks at a time, until that fateful day when I took a new job and before my business cards were even printed up, I was laid off. What a blow! I had never been without a job since I was 15. Panic stricken, I was completely knocked down and defeated. That’s when a friend of mine called and asked if I would like to go to Europe with her for 14 days. Of course, I said no, I was desperately looking for a job! She said, “Do you really think your going to find a job in the next two weeks when you are stressed and upset and you cry during the interviews?” She had a point, so I went.

Well, my friends, let me tell you, it was the first time I had ever been to Europe, and the first time I had ever taken a real 2 week vacation, and it was wonderful. I didn’t think I could afford it – and to be honest I couldn’t – but I wouldn’t have missed that experience for anything. It was the lesson of a lifetime. The lesson? Take time for yourself! Do things that will make you laugh, dance and sing, and take a vacation because it does all of those things and provides you with memories you will never forget. Not to mention a fresh perspective on your work and your life.

I lived under this work-based-no-vacation delusion for a long time and guess what, I’m not the only one! According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, American workers get an average of just 14 vacation days a year; and every year we leave 439 million of those days unused! That means we’re all afraid to leave work. Why can’t we be more like the Europeans? The French get 36 days of vacation and 94% of them take every single one, plus a few extra. And that’s not even counting the days off they get for going on strike! Even the English get more time off than we do, 24 days a year; and they get a lot more federal holidays (or bank holidays as they call them) than we do.
It’s been proven that vacations are good for your health too. Researchers at the State University of New York followed 12,338 middle aged men at risk for heart disease over nine years. They found that those who did not take regular vacations were much more likely to die than those who did take vacations.

It’s not just the body that benefits either. The mind does as well. A 2005 study by the Marshfield Clinic in Wisconsin found that women who take vacations are less likely to become tense, depressed or tired and are more satisfied with their marriages. And if it works for women, chances are it works for men too.

Jobs and careers, come and go. There are no guarantees that giving up vacations will make you safe. The only one in charge of your life is you. So you have to decide, what kind of life do you want? I choose one with good friends, good food, new experiences and work that I love. Oh yes, during the time I took that vacation, I had a chance to reassess my goals and after doing that I went back to school and became a clinical hypnotherapist; and I love it!

So take a vacation. It could change your life. It could even save it!

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