When was the last time you took a vacation? Not a half day here-and-there, but a full-on, multiple-day trip somewhere that took actual planning. If you’re racking your brain to remember, you’re not alone. Nearly 54% of Americans don’t take all their vacation days, which is up from 42% in 2013. Woah!
There are many reasons why we don’t take our vacations — we’re worried about falling behind, stressed by the planning process, and afraid of what people might think of us for taking a break. When one in four Americans believe that their employer expects them to keep working while on vacation, this fear is seemingly justified — you’ll be perceived as a slacker, as someone who doesn’t care as much as the rest of the team.
So why do we live with this fear? And why does it stick with us for so many years?
The most common answer: toxic work environments.
When you work in a toxic workplace stress, depression, and the likelihood of developing heart disease are all increased. While in many cases the best way to handle a toxic work environment is to leave, that’s not something we can all pursue. Another job offer isn’t a guaranteed thing and can take a while (if ever) which means your best defense is connecting with your mental health.
When we get in touch with our inner strength, we exude outer confidence. Start by determining what you want. A vacation for three days or two weeks? In the summer or fall? In the US or outside the states? This doesn’t need to be a plan that’s set in stone.
What this exercise gives you is permission. The permission to explore and get excited (which may not always be the attitude you hear and see at work). Permitting this joy into your life will overshadow the “anti-vacation” demons lurking around your cubicle.
Next? Focus on you. You want this vacation. You deserve this vacation. You’ve saved for this vacation. Most of the time, the way people view vacation is from someone else telling them their break was a form of “slacking off.” This opinion, in fact, has nothing to do with you, and everything to do with what they’ve already been taught. You can’t change their view, but you can change how you respond to this type of negativity. Volunteer a different opinion or choose to speak openly with your inner circle about the anxiety you feel. Do your friends feel the same way? How can you work together to face this fear and book that “OOO” calendar block?
Building up the internal strength to ask for a vacation may take some time. For me, it took an entire year. That’s right… I didn’t take a vacation for 365 days, primarily because I was surrounded by negativity. But once I felt excited about my plans and expressed my excitement outwardly, I took my vacation. And it was just what I needed.
By day, Lily Comba works in business development for an online marketplace. By night, she lives an entrepreneurial life. After working as a career consultant at her alma mater, Lily developed a passion for helping women in their careers. She embodies the mantra, “If not me, who? If not now, when?” in her work as a writer and business strategist for fellow entrepreneurs. Catch her running around Los Angeles or at lilycomba.com.