Another glorious three-day Labor Day weekend has passed, and I hope you enjoyed some time off. Did you feel a bit cranky on your first day back to work? You know what I mean – irritable, highly distractible or just generally displeased to be there. Everyone feels this way at times. Doctors do not have an official name for the condition; they just file it under “back-to-work blues.” A recommended remedy is to make a list and arrange tasks for maximum productivity.
Should we follow such advice so willingly or feel guilty about our feelings? It seems as if we have come to think of not only these three-day breaks but also vacations in general as luxuries, as opposed to necessities.
According to MarketWatch, America is now the highest no-vacation nation worldwide among high-income countries. According to a 2015 study, the number of vacation days used by employees has steadily declined over the past 20 years. We are in the midst of a vacation deprivation problem in this country. A Nielsen report shows that 52 percent of people did not take all their paid vacation days in the past year, leaving an average of seven days unused. This trend is happening even though 74 percent of those surveyed believe vacations are important in their lives and those who take vacations at least once a year (78 percent) are happier and more satisfied with their lives. More than 70 percent of people reported being more satisfied at work when they regularly take vacations. Evidence is mounting that time away from work is necessary for maintaining good health and a good frame of mind.
Despite compelling reasons for time off, Americans have convinced themselves they cannot afford to take time off because they simply have too much to do. Sheer busyness has become more than just an annoying factor of modern living. In 2016, the Johns Hopkins Health Review published a cover story titled “The Cult of Busy.” Researchers from Johns Hopkins University believe we are in the midst of a global epidemic of overscheduling that is ruining our health. According to their research, we find ourselves in a state of “time poverty.” It leaves us depleted because we tend to over-leverage our time for all the things we believe – right or wrong – we need to commit to.
According to Joseph Bienvenu, director of the Anxiety Disorders Clinic at Johns Hopkins, this leads to a vicious cycle of emotional distress. “Emotional distress due to over-busyness manifests as difficulty focusing and concentrating, impatience and irritability, trouble getting adequate sleep, and mental and physical fatigue,” he said. Bienvenu also noted that he sees patients so wound up from overscheduling that they can’t sleep, think or make time for important activities.
Faced with ever-dwindling free time, people begin to resort to scheduling everything. This is a mistake when you’re on vacation, according to researchers from Ohio State University’s Fisher College of Business and Rutgers Business School. When it comes to enjoying leisure activities, research shows that classic time management strategies often backfire. Any amount of scheduling can reduce your enjoyment of leisure activities by disrupting the free-flowing nature of being in the moment. The trick these days when going on vacation is to remove yourself from your normal routine, not only physically but mentally.
A study conducted by Air New Zealand in 2006 set out to scientifically measure the benefit of a vacation. Among the findings was that after a couple of days on vacation, people were averaging an hour more of high-quality sleep. The study also showed an 80 percent improvement in people’s reaction time.
To be clear, I am not advocating laziness. I believe in the need to lead a busy and productive life. But I also think we need to learn when to seize the day before it seizes us.
Life expectancy is on the decline in America. The term “life expectancy” is defined clinically as a measure of the health and well-being of a population and interpreted as a signal of a nation’s social and economic conditions or the provision or quality of its health care.
“A leading cause is fatal drug overdoses – fueled by the opioid epidemic – but we make a mistake if we focus only on the drug problem, which is just the tip of the iceberg,” Steven H. Woolf of Virginia Commonwealth University told Reuters. “Deaths from alcoholism and suicides have also increased, what some call deaths of despair.”
We must begin to see the “time poverty” crisis as a contributor to shortened life expectancy. The good news is it is a reversible trend.
Write to Chuck Norris with your questions about health and fitness. Follow Chuck Norris through his official social media sites, on Twitter @chucknorris and Facebook’s “Official Chuck Norris Page.” He blogs at ChuckNorrisNews.blogspot.com.