By Cathy Best, Columnist
When we first moved to Madison Wednesday afternoons were my favorite time of the week. All business, conducted downtown, would cease at noon. If a business was open on Saturday morning it closed on Wednesday afternoon. The bank, post office, pharmacy, fabric store, five and dime, doctor and dentist offices…etc. shut down. For new people in town it was a bit of an adjustment; for everyone else, it was business as usual. Personally, I loved it. Town took a siesta and we were compelled to slow down; it was good for us. Culture shifted when big box stores moved to the outskirts of town and local businesses had to compete with being open seven days a week and extended store hours. Concurrently, we, as consumers, were systematically reprogrammed, by advertising, to run at break-neck speed consuming goods and services. Consequently, large and small businesses were driven to meet our demands. Gone are the days of slowing down mid-week or anytime for that matter. Today small businesses are lucky to be closed by 6 pm and have one day a week off much less a week’s vacation. Europeans seem to have a better handle on rest and relaxation, or R&R as the military refers to it, than Americans. Here’s what research has to say: “ Employees in many European countries have 30 days vacation and they take all 30 days. Americans, on average, get 14 days and take 12.” “Unlike Europeans, many Americans believe our jobs are our identities,” says Joe Robinson, author of Don’t Miss your Life. “Believing that you are your job performance is what keeps you from taking time off.” Unused vacation days can impact your productivity in a negative away. Although you think you’re making more headway with your job or business, in reality, the opposite is true. Depression, burnout, and health issues, occur at a higher rate when you stay at the office instead of taking a much-needed break. Prevention website gives the following four reasons to break free from the “I-am-my-job-mindset” and take some time off.
1. According to researchers from the Marshfield Clinic, depression is three times more prevalent in women who don’t take regular vacations.
2. Your heart health is dramatically affected. Women who go on vacation lower their risk of a heart attack by 50 percent. Vacationing men lower their risk of dying from a heart attack by 32 percent and are 21 percentless likely to die prematurely.
3. Taking time off keeps you better balanced and less stressed. Stress diminishes the immune system’s ability to fight off illness. Reducing stress improves over-all health; you get sick less often.
4. Aging is slowed when you take an R&R due to the reduction of, the stress hormone, cortisol. According to a recent study in the Biological Psychiatry journal, cortisol may actually speed up the aging process.]
It’s important to keep in mind, a vacation, or break, doesn’t have to be a destination. By definition, vacation is synonymous with break, trip, rest, retreat, leave and escape. It can be taking 30 minutes for yourself in the morning, walking the dog in the afternoon, leaving work by five o’clock at least two days a week, fishing on Saturday, or doing whatever it is you enjoy that is not work related.