Do Vacations Really Help?
June 2, 2003
by Leonard Holmes, About.com

A Gallop poll suggests that most Americans return tired from vacations

Does your vacation relieve the stress in your life or contribute to it? We think of vacations as a way to relieve stress. We get away from the drudgery of our lives and take a week or two to have a good time away from home. A summer 2002 survey of 1000 Americans by the Gallup organization found that most of us return from vacation more tired then when we left.

The Gallup survey found that 54% of respondents reported that they returned from vacation feeling tired. this number included 19% of respondants who said they returned feeling either "very tired" or "exhausted." The results suggest that many of us go into vacations with a sleep deficit, and that we go further in debt on vacation by staying up later than usual and getting up earlier than usual.

More highlights from the Gallup poll:

  • 56% packed either the night before or the day of the trip (46% and 10%, respectively). 32% went to bed at least two hours later than normal due to this.
  • 54% reported waking up earlier than normal on the morning of the trip in order to get an early start.
  • 36% of those employed reported having to work harder or stay at the office later than usual just before their trip.

Vacations can certainly provide relief from the stress of everyday life. We often seek to vacation in places that are different from where we live and work. The mountains and the beach are popular for vacations partly for this reason. These natural environments seem to revitalize us. These boundaries between earth and water and between earth and sky have long been thought of as possessing healing powers. They can help us balance our lives and return to work refreshed and relaxed - if we take care of ourselves. With the right planning your vacation can actually leave you feeling rested and recharged.

Some suggestions:

  • If you have extra work to do before your vacation, spread it out.
  • Begin packing before the last minute.
  • Choose a location that will allow you to relax. Visiting family is important, but it is often not relaxing. Plan to spend at least part of your vacation in a more relaxing setting.
  • Plan to get a full night's sleep every night, and consider packing your own pillow.
  • Avoid working on vacation. Don't leave contact information with the office, and consider leaving your laptop at home.
  • Choose a vacation that ads balance to your life. If life is hectic, get away and relax. If life is lethargic, consider a more active vacation.