• Treat Yourself: Make the Most of Your PTO with a Stress-Free Vacation and Reap the Benefits 

     

    Treat Yourself: Make the Most of Your PTO with a Stress-Free Vacation and Reap the Benefits 

     

     

    Photo Credit: Pexels, Pixabay

     

    Around 40 percent of Americans don’t plan on using all of their paid time off (PTO) this year. If you’re part of this crowd, you need to reconsider. No, your workload isn’t too much and you won’t be seen as replaceable. Yes, other people can handle your job too. You need a break. It can actually make you have better job performance and provide other health benefits as well. It’s time to treat yourself by taking a stress-free vacation.

     

    The key to happiness may be a vacation. A study found that people who take time off of work are happier than those who don’t. The main reason seems to be excited anticipation for vacation. And the happiness doesn’t disappear when vacation ends; the increased levels of happiness last for two weeks after returning to work.

     

    Taking a break from work helps you feel renewed, so you can come back to work even fiercer. A study found that the best performers practice in 90-minute intervals with breaks between sessions, thus showing that people need restoration to optimize their performances. In fact, performance reviews increase by eight percent for each 10 hours an employee takes for vacation.

     

    A relaxed brain is able to focus on mundane but necessary tasks, such as memorizing new skills like mastering new software that your company is using. Taking a vacation can give your brain the relaxation it needs to grasp new concepts. Without a vacation, it’s difficult for your brain to focus outside of the immediate whirlwind that is your everyday routine.

     

    In fact, allowing your brain to daydream boosts problem-solving skills, planning, and creativity. At work, you’re highly focused and overworking your brain, thus limiting its insightful capabilities. However, a relaxing vacation gives your brain a chance to daydream. Furthermore, new experiences can give you fresh ideas for work because multicultural experiences help promote creativity and spawn new ideas. However, this only occurs when you’re simply immersing yourself and enjoying the moment.

     

    Of course, not all vacations are created equal, and not everyone will enjoy the same type of vacation. Being extremely remote isn’t necessarily the best option. Completely disconnecting yourself can lead to an overwhelming urge to connect, which can ruin the vacation. Consider what you like to do. Do you want to ski the snowy slopes, sit by the ocean, or explore a new city? Figuring out what you enjoy most in your free time will help you choose the best vacation.

     

    A vacation full of planned activities may be key. If you always have something on the itinerary, you won’t worry about checking emails. You’ll be having such a good time that you’ll learn to let go. If you’ve already mastered the ability of letting go of work on vacation, you don’t necessarily need to plan out your days and can more spontaneous. “Those who are less anxious about their one chance to get away often feel less pressure to make their vacation perfect, and are therefore often more open to exploration and discovery,” says Forbes.

     

    Vacation is a time to relax and take a break, but that can be hard to do if you’re worried about your house. Secure the outside and inside of your home before leaving so you can have peace of mind. Walk around your property to look for vulnerabilities, such as a loose fence panel or a broken roof shingle. Consider having the roof, plumbing, and HVAC system inspected. Cleaning your gutters is important regardless of the season.

     

    Inside the home, do another walkthrough. Ensure all exterior doors and windows are closed and locked, including pet doors. Unplug all appliances and electronics that don’t need to run while you’re away, and don’t leave any food in your refrigerator and pantry that will go bad in your absence. Ensure all fire detectors have fresh batteries. Also, give your house a good cleaning before heading out.

     

    A vacation is a way to achieve work-life balance, which is vital for the wellbeing of your mental health, personal relationships, and work enjoyment. Don’t just let your PTO go to waste. Stop thinking of vacations as a luxury, and start thinking of them as a necessity. Do yourself, your employer, and your career a favor – take your much-needed and much-deserved vacation.

     

  • The Mental Health Benefits of Self-Care

    The Mental Health Benefits of Self-Care

     

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    Photo credit by Pexels

     

     

    In 2014, a report found that American workers are “insecure, underpaid, highly stressed, and generally unhappy at work.” This state of affairs may be a clue as to why illnesses and mental health issues seem to be on the rise.

     

    While you must make enough money to pay your bills, you also must make time for self-care. In fact, neglecting self-care can make you sick. That can cost you – and, according to The Society for Human Resource Management, your employer – in productivity, good decision-making, and effective work. 

     

    Proper self-care can produce:

     

    • Lower stress levels.
    • Increased self-confidence.
    • Improved brain function.
    • More productivity.
    • Better immunity – and, therefore, fewer sick days.

     

    Tried and true methods of self-care include eating healthy, exercise, quitting bad habits, and avoiding overindulgence. However, there are some practices you may have overlooked.

     

     Self-Care Practices You May Be Missing

     

    These practices are necessary to maintaining good mental health.

     

    Getting enough sleep.


    We’ve often been told that most adults need 6 to 8 hours of sleep every night. Unfortunately, that’s not accurate. The National Sleep Foundation recently studied sleep times. They found that most adults between the ages of 18 and 64 require 7 to 9 hours of sleep. Where you lie on that spectrum depends on your body. You probably already know if you are sleeping 6 hours (or less) a night but your body and brain need 8. It’s time to get to bed earlier.
     

    Relaxation time.


    Another self-care practice many people overlook is relaxation. Doesn’t sleep count? You might need additional relaxation time to manage an overload of stress. If you’re struggling to make decisions, settle your brain down at night, are often anxious, and can’t seem to “catch your breath” during your day, relaxation time can help you cope.

     

    Use one of these techniques a few minutes a day:

     

    • Hot bath with Epsom salts. 
    • Deep breathing exercises.
    • Journaling. This is very effective early in the morning to clear your mind.
    • Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR). This is a technique that helps you relax tensed muscles. Learn how in this article from Guide To Psychology.

     

    Saying “no.”

     

    We live in a world where we feel guilty whenever we say “no.” The truth is we can’t do everything. We have to pick our priorities on the basis of who and what is important to us. It’s time to learn to say no to things that will bog us down. Learn how from this guide at Personal Excellence.

     

    Stress reduction.

    While all the habits above can help, stress is one of the most pressing issues in modern life. Unchecked, it can contribute to sickness, stroke, and heart disease. These techniques can help reduce stress:

     

    • Stress-busting foods.
      Reduce caffeine and fill up on foods that reduce stress, such as nuts and seeds, spinach, and salmon.
    • Walk in nature.
      Nature has a calming and healthy effect on the mind and body.
    • Aromatherapy.
      Calming essential oils, such as lavender, in a diffuser can help.

     

    Learn more ways to relieve stress from Very Well Mind.

     

    For People In Addiction Recovery

     

    It’s also helpful for people in addiction recovery programs to maintain self-care habits. Here are some tips:

     

    • Pick up a new hobby.
      Learning a new skill, like playing an instrument or gourmet cooking, can provide purpose, structure, and engagement in your down time to keep you occupied. As you improve, you’ll build confidence.
    • Meditation and yoga.
      These practices balance your cortisol levels, which reduces stress and allows your body and mind to heal. 

     

    In today’s world, self-care is underrated but it is just as important to creating a successful life as recovery from stress, illness, or addiction. Take the time today to integrate these practices into your life. You’ll be glad you did.

     

    Bio of the author:

    Brad Krause graduated from college in 2010 and went straight to the corporate world at the headquarters of a popular retail company. But what started as a dream job soured quickly. After four years of working 15-hour days and neglecting his health, he decided enough was enough. Through aiding a friend during a tough time, Brad discovered his real calling-helping people implement self-care practices that improve their overall wellbeing. He created SelfCaring.info to share his own knowledge and the many great resources he finds on his self-care journey.