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Do I Just Need a Vacation?

This blog is my form of sabbatical advocacy. Vacations are equally important, but hear me out. If you're at work mentally jaded, the thought of taking a vacation has certainly crossed your mind. But what if you're at the point where you want to take a full-fledged sabbatical? Whether you have hit a mental breaking point, are ready to embark on something new, or maybe just aren't vacationing the right way – I want to unpack that last point, not vacationing the right way.

First–ask yourself, "Am I vacationing the right way?" What does that even mean? We've all been guilty of checking or replying to a work email or leaving those Teams notifications on. You even start to justify your time off with the constant thoughts about what you have to do when you return to the office.

According to studies by the American Psychology Association, vacations can reduce stress levels, decrease the chances of health-related injuries and illnesses, improve mental health, and increase overall life satisfaction. To experience the myriad benefits of vacationing, one must indeed unplug from work, which is hard for many Americans. The Center for Economic and Policy Research has named the U.S. the "No Vacation Nation" due to the lack of vacation time taken (and offered). By definition, sabbaticals and vacations differ, but both are important. Taking a necessary work-free break reduces the need for a long-term pause.

If you are having difficulty leaving work behind while on vacation, here are helpful tips to try:

  • Schedule blackout days. When adjusting to a more balanced lifestyle, it may be challenging not to work during your entire time off. Build blackout days, where you do absolutely nothing work-related, into your time off. On non-blackout days, give yourself a limited timeframe to work.

  • Turn all work notifications off. Trust that your team has you covered.

  • Focus on your senses. When thoughts of work creep up, focus on your senses. Listen to the birds chirping. Hear the waves crashing on the shore. Feel the cool breeze against your skin.

  • Get active. When you remain in motion whether on a food tour, taking a scuba diving lesson, or on a hike – work is not on your mind. An activity allows your brain to focus on processing the task at hand and not on the office.

  • Leave your devices in the room. Now this one may take a bit more convincing. If you are vacationing with someone you trust and they have their phone, then leave yours behind. This allows for a distraction-free outing and being fully present.

  • Find ways to ground outdoors. Locate places that are relaxing in nature like a beach, lakefront, or park. Being out of your room may lower the temptation to work during your downtime.

Habits are hard to break, so don't be hard on yourself if you struggle with the growing pains of change. It takes effort to get the relaxation we deserve, but it is always worth it. Let me know how successful you are at implementing these tips on your next vacation. If bad habits persist, then a sabbatical might be on the horizon.

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