10 proofs that holidays are healthy!

There are already so many good reasons to take a vacation. Here are 10 more!

In Quebec, many people are only entitled to two weeks of vacation per year. Even then, 1 in 5 workers do not take all the days off they are entitled to. This is what emerges from a survey conducted in 2012 by the site Expedia.ca. The survey reveals a certain improvement all the same: indeed, 10 years ago, they were more than 1 out of 4 not to do so.

Lack of money, work overload, feeling of being indispensable… Whatever the reasons that keep us from enjoying our holidays, none of them are valid! “Everyone needs a vacation. It’s essential to our balance and our health,” says Mario Messier, occupational physician and scientific director of Groupe Entreprises en santé, an organization that supports companies in integrating occupational health practices. Not convinced? We read the following.

1. It reduces the risk of heart disease. A major American study (Framingham Heart Study) has shown that women who take vacations twice a year are eight times less likely to develop heart disease than those who take fewer vacations. A British study, which compared a group of people traveling with a group of workers, showed a drop in blood pressure, a reduction in blood sugar levels, and a noticeable improvement in mood and sleep in vacationers. According to the authors of this study, the benefits would remain for at least two weeks after the end of the vacation.

2. It increases our chances of conceiving. A study published in the journal Fertility and Sterility found that women who worry regularly, for example about work or money problems, are significantly less likely to conceive than those who don’t worry. It also seems that being on vacation and experiencing less stress can have a positive impact on our fertility. According to a survey conducted in the United States by the BabyCenter site, 40% of respondents to an in-house survey succeeded in conceiving during holidays taken especially to have a baby!

3. It allows you to eat better and exercise more. Marie-Claude Lamarche points out that we often have more time to sleep, exercise, cook, and eat well during the holidays, all activities that contribute to improving our health in general.

4. It nurtures our relationships with loved ones. “Holidays are an opportunity to get together as a couple, as a family, and to organize meetings with friends,” adds Dr. Messier. Having satisfying relationships outside of work is essential to our psychological balance. “Maintaining good social ties will allow us to better cope with stress later on”, confirms the doctor.

5. It decreases muscle tension. Also accentuated by stress, they cause back pain and headaches in particular.

6. It boosts our immune system. How? ‘Or’ What? By lowering our stress level. “Stress stimulates the secretion of cortisol, which contributes to weakening our immune system and makes us more at risk of infections like colds or flu,” explains Dr. Messier.

7. It’s good for the mind. No wonder, since most jobs put more strain on our minds than our bodies. “The brain is capable of giving a lot, says Mario Messier, but it also needs rest. This recharges our batteries and prevents burnout. This can even make us more efficient: “When we face the same problems day after day, we always have the same point of view and we end up not seeing clearly, adds the doctor. Getting away from that reality for a while allows you to find new ways to solve problems.

8. It improves our mood. According to the Expedia survey, 70% of people consider that vacations are a big part of their happiness. This could be explained by the fact that work generates a lot of stress on a daily basis, which, in the long run, plays on our nervous system. “We then become more aggressive, more impatient, and we sleep less well,” explains Marie-Claude Lamarche. By offering a respite to our nervous system, holidays allow us to regain our calm.

9. It prevents depression. American researchers from the Marshfield Clinic in Wisconsin have shown that women who take vacations regularly are less likely to be tense, depressed, or tired. According to their study, women who take a vacation at least twice a year are less likely to suffer from depression than those who take it only once, or, worse, once every two years.

10. It helps prevent a host of other illnesses. “Stress is an important risk factor for several diseases such as diabetes, digestive problems, stomach ulcers, and eczema,” says Dr. Messier.

How many days to feel the benefits?

Ideally, according to Marie-Claude Lamarche, we take two consecutive weeks of vacation and long weekends approximately every two months, such as on Labor Day, Thanksgiving, and the holidays. A week is not enough to recharge our batteries completely. “Often, it takes two days to get into vacation mode, says the psychologist, and we start thinking about our files again two days before returning to the office.” Conversely, taking a too long vacation is not better. “Studies have shown that taking 5 or 6 weeks of vacation online, as the French do, makes returning to work difficult, notes Ms. Lamarche. Those who leave for a very long time find it difficult to get back into the swing of things and this affects their performance at work. The best thing, when you are entitled to several weeks of vacation, is to spread them out over the year.

3 golden rules for a profitable vacation

How we take our holidays matters a lot. The only rules you should follow on vacation are these.

  • To take down! “The idea is to completely disconnect from the office,” says Marie-Claude Lamarche, a psychologist specializing in psychological health at work. We don’t check our e-mails, we don’t take our messages and we don’t bring files with us. We must therefore prepare for our departure, advises Mario Messier: “We solve the big problems before leaving and we delegate tasks. Leaving with big outstanding file risks poisoning our holidays.
  • Get out of the routine. “If we can, we leave the house and go to the cottage, camping or on a trip,” says Marie-Claude Lamarche. It’s refreshing and it saves us from spending our holidays cleaning or renovating.”
  • To please yourself. “The most important thing is to do what you love,” says Dr. Messier. Not everyone enjoys spending hours walking on a beach! And we do not overload the program.