Apparently Americans are just not that into vacation days. This probably comes as no surprise to many people who have looked forward to a vacation only to be bombarded by work e-mails upon arrival (and/or during their time off). Many of us struggle to take a lunch break, let alone an actual vacation. A hardy work ethic is part of the American tradition, right? But have we gone overboard? In the nation of supersizing everything, why have we minimized self-care, and what does it cost us? The chronic stress of overworking can be associated with burnout, heart disease, and decreased productivity. It’s not a great long-term strategy for professional and personal fulfillment. Compare this with other cultures, in which the norm is to take a break for a healthy lunch and a glass of wine, go for a walk, perhaps have an afternoon nap, go on holiday for a few weeks, regularly engage in meaningful social activities- in short, do things that do not revolve around work, and they actually live longer and healthier lives. That sounds heavenly to me. So how do we carve out time for lunches and vacations in a demanding work environment that values results over personal wellness? Unfortunately, I don’t have the answer to that, at least not today. Likely it will take a major cultural shift. But perhaps we can start that shift by communicating to others through our actions the importance of self-care. Block some time in your schedule for lunch and step away from your desk to enjoy it. Make an appointment with yourself for exercise or socializing. Go away for a weekend, maybe even a long weekend if you’re feeling adventurous! Clearly there is more to the formula for longevity than this, involving a lifestyle change. But as one of my favorite sayings goes, you can only start from where you are, not from where you want to be.
Have you made these changes in your life? What did you notice? What have you found that works?