Americans need to take vacations now more than ever, and not just because of work-related stress. According to Psychology Today, a greater number of Americans are suffering from what’s known as “compassion fatigue.”
Compassion fatigue is a form of secondary traumatic stress. It’s commonly seen in health care professionals because of the situations their work puts them in.
Symptoms often mirror those of depression including insomnia, poor self-care, excessive or undereating, isolation, and feelings of hopelessness.
The Unfortunate Impact Of Social Media
Unfortunately, compassion fatigue is spreading due to greater exposure to traumatic news and harassment/discrimination. Facebook has up to 1.97 billion monthly active users around the world and many of them are exposed to traumatic news directly through their phones and at home.
“[We] are inundated with graphic images of the unimaginable suffering of millions,” said Dr. Amit Sood, author of The Mayo Clinic Guide to Stress-Free Living. “We can fathom the suffering of a few, but a million becomes a statistic that numbs us.”
Are Vacations Really Worth It?
Many Americans have been skipping vacations and leaving their vacations days on the table. In fact, nearly half of the American population isn’t planning on taking a summer vacation this year.
The top reasons for not taking a vacation include not being able to afford it, family duty, an inability to take off work. But it isn’t only because of these reasons that Americans are choosing not to vacation.
The nation’s social climate often praises those who choose to work rather than play. Although hard work is a positive attribute, overworking can often lead to stress, illness, and lack of productivity.
It can also cause a great amount of fatigue and depression when paired with the exposure to tragedies online and in the news.
Vacations provide a break away from work-related stress, world-related stress, and FOMO-related stress that’s often related to social media.
Vacations Come With Their Own Health Benefits
Vacations aren’t only a source of relaxation. They also come with a variety of health benefits including the following:
- Improved sleep. One in three Americans don’t get enough sleep. Vacations can help get your sleep patterns back under control by helping you return to your natural circadian rhythm. Any massages you receive during your vacation can also help with sleep (92% of massage clients say massage is effective in reducing pain).
- Greater cardiovascular health. Stress and poor sleep habits can take a major toll on your heart health. In fact, according to a study by Framingham Heart, employees who forego their vacation time face greater risks for heart problems and early death. Vacations ease stress and can also help your heart by introducing you to new and healthier foods. Cuisine-focused vacations are becoming more popular and Florida alone has up to 39,325 eating and drinking locations as of 2014.
- Greater happiness and satisfaction. It’s true vacations offer a number of benefits like improved productivity. But most importantly vacations give you a greater sense of self-satisfaction. You’re able to take the time to do the things you enjoy, be with those you love, and be creative. For instance, there’s a reason 41,000 all-terrain vehicles were sold to American customers between January and March 2017 (and it had nothing to do with productivity and everything to do with fun).
Vacations let your body do more than relax. They allow you to reset and be present in the moment.
“Your body turns mental and emotional stress into physiological experiences like headaches, backaches, and muscle tension,” said Dr. Suzanne Degges-White of Lifetime Connections. “By letting go of the stressors for a week, your body is able to unclench and return to its healthier, more relaxed state, and this is definitely good for the soul.”
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