Most of us assume that the best way to charge our batteries is to take a vacation. Such a thought is not necessarily wrong, and if you follow its logic, you can also say that the longer the vacation, the better. But if that is the case, why is it that even after a long vacation, many are once again stressed out when they return to work and discover the long list of things that need to get done?
You should know that according to recent studies, there is a "recipe" for the perfect vacation that will effectively remove future stress and tension, and once you learn it, you’ll start planning your future vacations completely differently.
A study conducted at Harvard University produced a measure called the Framingham Scale that tests a person's risk of cardiovascular disease. The researchers tracked women from Framingham, Massachusetts for 20 years, during which it was found that the women who had the least time off were at a higher risk of experiencing a heart attack. Another study took 9 years to follow 12,000 men at high risk of cardiovascular disease, those who regularly took vacations experienced fewer heart attacks and died less than those who worked non-stop.
In addition, not going out on occasional vacations increases the burnout we experience as a result of work, which affects our emotional state and can lead to marital problems, health problems, and even depression. However, as it is said, not every holiday is one that can fill our batteries and reduce the stress of working, but if you know how to plan the perfect vacation you can certainly achieve that necessary calm.
Psychologist Sabine Sonnentag of the University of Konstanz, Germany, has been researching this issue for 20 years, and she and her colleagues now believe that they’ve found the four factors that make a vacation conducive to physical and mental health. According to Sabine's explanation, a vacation which includes these four factors is like a hearty meal for the soul, while a vacation that does not include them is like consuming empty calories. Here they are before you:
This factor is obvious and understandable - we must enjoy a relaxing holiday that does not put pressure on us. Relaxation doesn’t mean you have to lay on the beach the whole time if that’s not what you enjoy doing. Rather, it means that the activities you do during your vacation should not feel like chores, and should not be over strenuous.
In the context of spiritual healing, control means that you have the power to decide how you’ll take advantage of your time, energy, and attention. This factor is especially important for people who can’t control everything in their work - for example, "annoying" customers' demands or being part of a large team responsible for a joint project, as well as for those who spend most of their time busy doing work rather than leisure. The ability to control what you want, whenever you want on your vacation, provides a liberating feeling that helps you recharge.
Such experiences are interesting to you and you know how to handle them well. They are often challenging, but the rewards you gain outweigh the effort you'll need to invest - because that's your area of expertise. If you are engaged in physical work and you are in good shape, hiking is likely to be very beneficial to you, and if you, for example, deal with the humanities, an in-depth study of the local culture can be more effective for your vacation. This is especially important for people who feel they lack knowledge in their field, either because of their uncertain future in the company they work in or because of the feeling that they are being told that they do not know how to do their jobs properly.
An interesting example of this can be taken from one of the events of World War II - during that period chess was very popular among secret British intelligence service deciphering teams. One team leader, who was staying at the Bletchley Park Estate (where the deciphering unit was established), played on the British chess team and recruited other players from his team to it, believing that the game helps develop the thinking ability needed for cracking codes. Although the activity seemed to be a form of "training" for the job, the chess games were still perceived as recreational activities because they were fun and relaxing.
This factor was first found in a study conducted in Israel by sociologists Dalia Etzion, Dov Eden and Yael Lapidot. They questioned reserve soldiers after they returned from their service and measured their levels of involvement and energy at work. Surprisingly, after the reserve service, the soldiers reported that they experienced much less pressure and weariness at their jobs than they did before they left for reserve service. In fact, their results looked exactly like those of vacationers. This is true not only for Israelis - in other countries the same results were found in such cases, and this showed that even if the leave from work is physically or mentally exhausting, it can provide a useful respite from routine tasks in the workplace.
Additional findings were found regarding those who continued to use their smartphone during their reserve service - those who were busy on their phones did not experience the same effects as the other subjects, and their levels of stress and burnout remained almost the same. This result was the same for those who did not stop thinking about their work during the reserve service, even if they did not physically deal with it. The positive effects of detachment persist for only a month after returning to routine daily life, but this is consistent with the findings of studies on the subject of vacation rather than reserve service. This proved that separation from work was the factor that determined the employee’s feelings upon return.
None of the factors cited here indicate a specific ideal vacation length, so researchers also raised the question "When does happiness come to its peak on vacation?" While trying to answer this question, psychologists researched people and their feelings while on holiday and found that levels of happiness rose sharply during the first few days and reached their peak around the eighth day - after which they gradually decreased.
While a two-week vacation has its own advantages, such as getting to know the culture of the place you're visiting more deeply, it does not lead to greater happiness. Therefore, it's better to take shorter vacations every few months than to plan one big vacation once every year or two. We should think of a holiday as we think of sleep - it is advisable to engage in it regularly for a period of time that provides benefits to our body and soul, but too much (or too little) of it can only be harmful.