Why Pampering Yourself Increases Your Productivity

 For many years, we've lived in a culture in which the more work you take on, the more productive you're perceived as, and therefore more likely to succeed. Where does that place long vacations and self-care?


Research has found that though Americans have fewer vacation days than people from other countries, they've been taking fewer breaks over the last 15 years. In 2015, 55% of American employees didn't use their vacation leaves at all. Meanwhile, those who managed to take vacations still checked into their work while away.


And the most concerning of all is 84% of Americanexecutives canceled their vacations for work.


Sadly, many of us still think that working more increases our productivity. We still feel guilty about taking breaks, because it forces our colleagues to fill in for us. But what are vacation leaves for, if not to be used?


Contrary to the culture we've lived in, pampering yourself is actually the way to boost our productivity. Yes, taking long days away from work benefits your career in the end. Besides, going on a vacation doesn't mean you're abandoning your job. It simply means you're recharging because you're exhausted.


Breaks Help You Manage Stress Better

Vacations allow you to detach from work. According to organizational psychology professor Sabine Sonnentag, detaching from work helps you reduce burnout, which impacts your well-being and productivity. When you are disengaged from work, you can return more resilient in the face of stress, and therefore more productive. Even a quick weekend getaway is enough to recover from stress and burnout. But the longer you're away, the more relief you'll get.


After a vacation, 64% of people say they feel refreshed and excited to go back to work. As such, vacations are a win-win for employers and employees, considering that unused vacation leaves also cost companies $224 billion every year.


A Change of Pace Increases Your Creativity

CEOs across the world name creativity as the number one trait for all incoming employees. But Kyung Hee Kim, researcher and author of the book The Creativity Challenge, says that we are facing a dramatic "creativity crisis". Younger generations are apparently losing creativity scores, which the vacation may help resolve.


Vacations increase creativity because it exposes you to new and different experiences. It's the opposite of working behind a desk from nine to five, which only places you in the office, in front of a monitor. As much as the internet is capable of feeding you information and visuals beneficial for your creativity, it will never compare to actual nature. Hiking, for example, leads to a 50% spike in creativity, according to research. That's because you're actually interacting with nature when you're hiking, as opposed to simply researching what hiking feels like.


In fact, even idleness was found to create positive changes in the brain. Brain imaging studies show that daydreaming produces alpha waves in the brain that are key to creative insight and innovative breakthroughs. So if you space out at work, it could just be your brain automatically replenishing those waves. You surely find yourself brimming with more ideas after a few minutes of staring into space.


Self-care Improves Your Overall Health

Soaking in a hot tub or swimming pool does more than engage your senses. Self-care activities like such also trigger your body's relaxation response, which prevents chronic stress from damaging your health. And of course, good health means fewer sick leaves.


Moreover, self-care encourages you to engage in healthier habits, like eating healthful meals, getting enough sleep, balancing between leisure and work, and making time for your friends. Even if you choose to just indulge in a spa all day, you'll still receive the amazing health benefits of self-care.


A good amount of alone time is also helpful. Meditation allows you to perform self-reflection or lets your problems work out themselves at the back of your mind, instead of demanding all your attention. That simple act can rejuvenate your mind a great deal, allowing you to go back to work feeling more motivated.


How Often Should You Take Long Vacations?

While long vacations are essential for your productivity, taking too many of them in a year will hurt your productivity instead of boosting it. The goal is to achieve a healthy balance between work and leisure.


How often you should take long vacations depends on the number of your available leaves and the activities you enjoy. Generally speaking, you should aim for vacations that last seven to eleven days long every year. In other words, try to maximize your yearly vacation leaves. Engage in all the activities you love, in places that allow you to unplug. Avoid checking your work messages and emails while on vacation! If you're not detached, you won't get the full benefits of long vacations. 


You deserve a good long vacation for working so hard and barely taking care of yourself. So even if you do nothing for a whole week but sleep or get massages--don't feel guilty.  

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