Having just come off one of my busiest spring speaking schedules, I was celebratory about meeting all of my deadlines and aspirations. At the same time, I was also dreaming of when I could escape to the Rocky Mts. with my tent, with no demands other than: what time I wanted to get up (answer: when I WOKE up!), when we wanted to have dinner, and if we’d rather go fishing or hiking on any given day.
It’s no surprise, then, that I wore a smile as wide as the Grand Canyon when my husband, Richard, and I finally loaded up the car and headed for the hills. With every mile clocked on our drive to Nirvana, I felt a new glob of tension being left on the pavement. By the time we arrived at our campsite, set up camp,and popped the cork of a good zinfandel, I was darned near giddy. After all, this was V-A-C-A-T-I-O-N and I’d been lusting for it for several months.
Summer is the time of year when the majority of us in the U.S. take our vacations. Or, at least we take them in theory. The sad truth, as shown by a recent poll by TripAdvisor, the largest travel site in the world, is that 77% of U.S. respondents reported that in the last year, they worked while on vacation. In a time when we all are hyper-connected, via emails, texts, social media, voice mail, etc., we have an extra hard time in truly unplugging. Yet, more and more research shows that (as athletes know with interval training), our brains and spirits need to take a rest, switch lanes, unplug, to be at their masterpiece levels.
I have to admit, even though I know better, I almost fell prey to the temptation to bring work along on our trip. Even though we wouldn’t have Internet connection at our campground, there were articles I could write, data I could enter, lists I could make, etc. Fortunately, I sat myself down before we left and reviewed why this would not be a good idea. While enjoying living in the great outdoors, I reflected on this decision, as I could actually feel its benefits working their magic.
5 REASONS TO UNPLUG DURING VACATION:
1. LOWERED STRESS AND TENSION. Lying in my creekside hammock, I could literally feel stress and tension leaving my body. Studies show over and over that completely stepping out of the routine of work makes us relax more, breathe more fully, and can even lower blood pressure (give a shout out if even one of these benefits sound good to you!).
2. INCREASED CREATIVITY. As we break pre-occupation with work concerns, our minds wander and often make connections in new and exciting ways; we become more open to inspiration. I always have a pad of paper to capture the stray creative idea that bursts through, seemingly out of nowhere, and then apply it once back in my office.
3. IMPROVED BRAIN & MENTAL HEALTH. Just like when a tire gets over inflated and we need to let some air out for it to function optimally, our brains need the same thing. And lest you worry your brain might get lazy in the process, never fear. As reported in Scientific American, even when we are relaxing or on vacation, “the brain does not really . . . stop working.” It does, however, work in a different, more restorative way. And be aware: brain studies show that this restorative effect is interrupted when simply checking emails while on vacation!
4. REDUCED BURNOUT. Isn’t it interesting that often, the week before vacation, we think, “It’s a good thing vacation is coming; I couldn’t take one more day of this!” When we’re overworked (a new Gallop poll reports that, on the average, U.S. workers work 47 hrs. a week), we are much more susceptible to burnout and the feeling that we can’t squeeze out one more drop. Some estimates show the cost of burnout to be in the $300 billion dollar range for U.S. businesses. Quite a price to pay.
5. INCREASED PRODUCTIVITY. When we’ve completely pulled the plug, there’s usually a new zeal and focus when we do get back to work. Giving the body and mind the deep cleansing breath they so need can ramp up our productivity, having averted the big burnout that was heading our way. Mission accomplished!
BTW, for those of you concerned about keeping your phone turned off (and even kept inside your suitcase, as I suggest!) should dire emergencies arise, give your loved ones the phone number of your facility or ranger district. That way you can pull the plug on your concerns and be blissfully recharged before you’re back in the stream of things.