Take your vacation… seriously

“Human beings aren’t designed to expend energy continuously. Rather, we’re meant to pulse between spending and recovering energy.”

Mike Davies, Editor-in-Chief Ω

Why is it when we’re at work (or school) we wish we were at home in bed, but when we’re home in bed we just think about work (or school)? Maybe because we don’t take enough time off. kroszk@/Flickr Commons

Why is it when we’re at work (or school) we wish we were at home in bed, but when we’re home in bed we just think about work (or school)? Maybe because we don’t take enough time off. kroszk@/Flickr Commons

Well, here we are at the end of another semester (at least as far as issues of The Omega are concerned). Sure we’ve still got a few final assignments to hand in and maybe a few exams during the exam period to worry about, but we can see the light at the end of the tunnel, as the cliché goes.

Bad news, though. I have one more assignment for you fine folks after you’re done with your classwork for the semester.

That assignment is this: Sleep, relax, do something fun that doesn’t require much focus, and then sleep again.

Too often these days, people have opportunities to relieve the seemingly unbearable levels of stress that accompany post-secondary educational demands, but they don’t take advantage of them.

Trust me when I say that I fully realize many of you need to take the opportunity that the winter break affords you to stabilize (or at least subsidize) your financial situation by getting a seasonal job — or, more likely, picking up more hours at the job you already need to sustain yourself while at school.

I suggest that you at least take some time off, however, and there are more than a few reasons why.

Elizabeth Anne Scott, author of 8 Keys to Stress Management, award-winning health blogger and contributing columnist to Ask.com’s health section, writes a lot about “burnout,” which is a feeling I’m sure many of you have on a regular basis.

“If your whole life consists of responsibility and work, and you don’t have a creative outlet or regular outlet for good old fun, it’s harder to sustain yourself through the stressful times in life,” she wrote in a May 2012 article entitled, “Daily life stress and burnout: What presents the highest risk.”

In an earlier article (July 2011) she wrote about the importance of periodic vacations, saying, “the psychological benefits that come with more frequent vacations lead to increased quality of life, and that can lead to increased quality of work on the job.”

When you combine these two ideas, it says to me that it’s important to take a vacation once in a while that relieves you of your stressful responsibilities and allows you to recharge your emotional batteries with activities you enjoy in order to be better at the stressful stuff when that’s what you need to be accomplishing.

“The importance of restoration is rooted in our physiology,” agrees Tony Schwartz, author of Be excellent at anything: The four keys to transforming the way we work and live. “Human beings aren’t designed to expend energy continuously. Rather, we’re meant to pulse between spending and recovering energy.”

In his contribution to the New York Times in February of 2013, he outlines some of the important aspects of both human physiology and psychology and illustrates how rest and relaxation contribute to the effectiveness of a person when engaged in stressful, necessary activities.

In it he cites one of many studies that are out there in regards to how vacations (and other forms of downtime) contribute to productivity in which an accounting firm found that for every extra days of vacation an employee took over the course of a year, their work performance increased by eight per cent, as rated by their employer.

Couldn’t we all use an extra eight (or more) per cent increase in productivity?

Ten days of relaxation and focusing on entertainment and enjoyment could be all it takes, and what better time to engage with that rejuvenation than when it’s cold and windy and you don’t have to be in class for three weeks?

If it’s a realistic possibility for you, I highly suggest it. If it’s not, all I can say is don’t spend too much of your “downtime” over the break on stressful things like getting ahead of your readings before next semester starts.

If you have time to get some reading in, pick up a novel and escape into a different world instead of immersing yourself in the one you’ll be surrounded by in January.

And have a snowball fight.

See you in January.