The good news? A vacation from work is essential to your health and your company’s health. The bad news? Less than half of us used all of our vacation time in 2016, and a third of us took ZERO vacation days during the prior year. This according to recent research from and travel news site Skift.

The irony of it all is that these “vacation martyrs” think they’re doing everyone a favor by working this hard. In reality, they’re costing everyone: their family, their boss, their company, their sanity! Dozens of research studies indicate that people who take vacations are happier, healthier, more productive and can even earn more than those who don’t.

If you can’t manage a week off, try a long weekend.

Many of us have busy weekends too, filled with ‘non-work hassels’ like house cleaning, grocery shopping, errands, appointments, laundry, etc. This can impair our ability to recover from our work situation and stressors. Having a true break a.k.a. ‘relief from our daily burdens’ provides both physical and mental benefits including:

Better health:

Restoration and recovery are essential to our health and rooted in our biology. Just as we need sleep to feel our best, we sometimes need time away from the office to reset the body and mind, lower our stress level, lower our risk for heart attack, even increase our ability to fight infection.

Increased happiness:

We experience the benefits of vacation for up to 5 weeks after. Breaking routine from the day-to-day experience, unplugging from and detaching from work, being in a new environment and trying new things can create new neural pathways and increase our neurotransmitters…the same ones that are associated with our reward and pleasure centers. Vacations energize us, improve creativity, improve our personal relationships, and decrease stress and anxiety.

Earn more money:

Those who take vacation are more likely to get promoted and more likely to receive a raise than those who don’t. Taking time to recharge, (even for just a few days) renders us more productive, more resilient, and less likely to experience burnout.

We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us. -unknown

I haven’t planned for a vacation this weekend…Now what?!

Those new experiences, new tastes, new environments and detaching from work can all happen close to home. Why not become a local tourist and fall in love with your city again?

To be a ‘vacation’ you need to treat it like a vacation. Run by the office real quick? You couldn’t do that if you were in Hawaii, so don’t do it here. Grab your morning coffee at a little shop on the opposite side of town rather than your usual Vanilla latte in the car. Resist the urge to check your email. Visit new restaurants, try new cuisine, sit in a sidewalk cafe in a new neighborhood.

5 Ideas to have a great vacation locally

  • If you can, check out of your house. Stay at a hotel or rent an AirBnB for a day or two. This will help get you out of your daily routine and may even spark a sense of adventure. Pretend you are a visitor to the city and ask for recommendations for places to eat and things to do and see. Take notes and then take pictures.
  • Go to your local tourism office or welcome center and take advantage of the assortment of discounts and information available. Take a sight-seeing tour, visit a museum, or do something you’ve never done before like a Segway or rent a bicycle for two.
  • Explore your own backyard! Get in your car and drive an hour or two. Visit the town next door for the day. You’d be surprised at how much there is to see and do within that two hour drive. Google “Top things to do in…” Then get going!
  • Visit a National Park near you. There are 417 parks encompassing over 80 million acres of recreation areas, monuments, battlefields, historic sites, seashores, scenic rivers and trails. These are some of our country’s most beautiful assets and many are free!
  • See the landmarks listed on your city’s website. If you have children, rediscover some of your favorite childhood places with them. Take selfies and share them on Instagram or Facebook. Don’t forget that kitschy frame.

Whether rediscovering your city or getting away, after the long weekend you can return to work with a fresh perspective and appreciation…and send a postcard to your favorite uncle!

Originally published at