A well-planned vacation – just the “ticket” to enhanced productivity, overall wellness
We at O’Donnell, Ficenec, Wills & Ferdig are partners in our clients’ financial health. We also appreciate the role that having the finger on the pulse of one’s finances can have as it relates to a clients’ overall health and well-being. Certainly, money has perennially reigned as the number one issue that keeps us Americans up at night. The connections between stress and physical, mental and emotional health are profound and well-established.
But Dr. Jeffrey Borenstein’s Brain and Behavior Research Foundation advances the subject by presenting a particularly timely notion, with the summer months upon us, of time off and vacations as the “antidote” to stress. As the president and CEO of BBRF notes, these periods are opportunities to “recharge,” to “replenish and return to our pre-stress level of functioning.”
Several “science-based reasons” were argued to use that personal or vaca time sooner rather than later, or to at least take the earnest actions toward intentionally setting aside and respecting such invaluable time:
Research featured by the BBRF and American Psychological Association characterized “leisure as a coping resource,” noting that vacations improved mood, and reduced stress, depression and anxiety among the legal professionals surveyed. The theory is that vacations present an opportunity to intentionally remove oneself from the triggers or sources of mental and emotional distress. Also, it doesn’t take much to seize the benefits; for instance, researchers have noted that a three-day trip was sufficient to “reduce perceived levels of stress.” There were also noticeable improvements in the level of “cortisol,” the hormone pivotal in the body’s stress response.
Vacations are good for the ticker, according to the pioneering and longitudinal Framingham Heart Study. Researchers identified vacations as a “protective factor,” with those subjects who took more frequent holidays living longer and generally healthier lives. In fact, men who didn’t get their rest and recharge time away from the office or business were reportedly 30% more likely to have a heart attack.
Vacas are good for the bottom line, not only in terms of reduced costs associated with unhealthy workforces and associated health insurance, but also in terms of productivity. When employees were required to take time off, Boston Consulting Group researchers reported that they were significantly more productive than their counterparts that worked straight through or for longer stretches without a break. Think of the bolstered energy that comes by stepping away from the desk, enjoying a little sunlight, if only for an hour. Now, multiply that with three, six, nine days [and so on] away from work. Tasks are less time-consuming and seem to be completed effortlessly, according to employee study subjects. Well-rested employees are generally more productive, engaged, and happier – the attributes of a high-performing worker.
Speaking of “rest,” vacations may very well be the path to chipping away at the epidemic of insomnia or poor sleep quality. As BBR’s Borenstein puts it, restless nights and disrupted sleep are common complaints – often stemming from the fact that we simply have too much on our minds.” A little R&R may just be the ticket to interrupt undesirable habits and behaviors that support lackluster sleep, from working well into the night, to watching devices with backlit screens right before we’re supposed to shut off and settle down for the evening.
We could go on and on about the whole-body benefits. But, as your financial partners, we at OFWF also appreciate that vacation planning itself can be a source of stress, especially when sorting out how to balance one’s vacation goals with one’s budget. With so much riding on R&R, it is important to prioritize budgeting for the very opportunities, activities, interests and experiences that really make life worth living!
We can also aid in balancing both the health of yourself and the health of your budget by minding the fundamentals. That way, when the slower summer months (or whenever you can take a vacation) approach, you already have a solid foundation to build upon to plan your ideal trip without lighting dynamite to your budget.
Hit “pause” for a moment and consider your present-day, complete financial picture. Chances are, your workplace and workforce looks considerably different than it did just two or three short years ago. It may be time to get really serious about, or to give your financial plan, a much-needed update or refresh. All current sources of income should be considered and accounted for, from “side hustles” to secondary businesses, to governmental support, investments, rental income, and child support, alimony, and on and on and on. Life circumstances are always in a state of flux, and must be accounted for within one’s financial plan.
Likewise, one needs to account for current expenses. Where does all of the money derived from the aforementioned income go? This is easily the “heaviest lift,” as it requires taking a hard look at the outflows, and also considering those automated payments that are very easy to overlook. These expenses may include a litany of subscription services, alongside the obvious mortgage, rent and HOA fees, and payments for mobile and telecommunications, garbage, parking, utilities and their ilk. When one takes a closer look at areas, such as entertainment or dining, there is a lot of “gray,” which may present opportunities to save that could then be put toward rewarding experiences farther afield, such as during your planned holiday! Even making one’s own coffee two or three times a week, renegotiating on data plans, or assessing and eliminating underutilized or long forgotten-about subscription services can result in savings that may be redirected toward higher-value, more meaningful items or expenses.
There are additional opportunities for savings by simply considering and updating one’s budget; for instance, by getting a handle on current income and expenses, you may avoid fees for late payments or fees associated with auto-pay expenses that may be connected to an expired credit or debit card, or to a lesser-used card that may have cancelled by the issuing company as a victim of a data breach (the email, however, landed in your spam folder). The whole idea is to stay abreast of and to account for your financial picture as a “living, breathing” entity and process.
Once you are up-to-date on what goes in and what comes out, from there you can create a working budget that accounts for all of the various buckets of your life. Of course, it almost goes without saying that the critical “buckets” (emergency funds) must be set aside first. If the pandemic has taught us anything it’s the value of setting aside rainy days funds, because when it rains, it naturally pours.
The takeaway here is to not watch everyone else around you go on vacation this summer, and come back happier, looking healthier, and recharged. You deserve to step away and come back a renewed, rejuvenated, productive version of yourself.