Science shows taking time off can extend your life

Let's face it: Adulting is difficult. With the sheer amount of stuff we have to deal with every day—work, family, friends, and financial matters, not to mention the time we need for self-care—how on earth are we supposed to juggle it all? Don’t mind taking a break from your daily routine and actually enjoy a real vacation. While it can be difficult to break away from your weekly routine and take a much-needed break, vacations are more than just a relaxing break from the daily grind, they can also help you live longer. According to new research, one of the health benefits of vacationing includes extending your life, which is no small thing, right? Kind of puts things into perspective.

While daily self-care habits like exercise and getting enough sleep are great ways to manage stress loads and help us live longer, healthier lives overall, research shows there really is no substitute for taking a vacation. According to the Helsinki Businessmen Study, a 40-year study that tracked cardiovascular risk factors in 1,222 businessmen, vacations are more than just a luxury. In fact, they are very important for both quality of life and longevity.

CNBC reported that the study of Helsinki businessmen spanned the 1960s to 2014 and involved two groups. In the control group, the men followed their usual healthy habits while receiving standard medical care. The second group - the intervention group - received advice on how to improve their health. They quit smoking, improved their diet and started exercising. Surprisingly, despite these lifestyle adjustments, the intervention group still had a higher mortality rate than the control group if they overworked, didn't get enough sleep, and didn't take vacations.

"Holidays are a great way to relieve stress," said Professor Timo Strandberg of the University of Helsinki, Finland, according to a press release from the European Society of Cardiology. "…Don't think that having a healthy lifestyle will make up for it. Overworking and not taking time off." Strandberg further explained that for these participants, ongoing stress, too little sleep, or time off "could negate any benefits of the intervention." Strandberg also noted that efforts to maintain a healthier lifestyle may have also exacerbated stress in the intervention group, especially if they were predisposed to a more stressful lifestyle to begin with.

Sooo, have you submitted your leave request?

Professor Strandberg further noted that stress management is key to reducing cardiovascular risk and extending life in the long term. While other lifestyle factors like sleep and exercise are also important, rest and managing stress are critical to long-term health. Elite Daily further points out that if we're not careful, too much work of any kind—whether related to career, health, or personal development—can increase our stress load. Especially if we don’t remember to take a break and let everything go for a while.

It's also important to note that while Herschini's study was eye-opening, women were not studied during the study, so more research is needed to understand how the holidays may affect women. While women face similar occupational stressors as men, research also shows that women tend to have a heavier workload in childcare and household chores—a workload that they may not be able to take breaks from, for example, during family vacations.

And, let's face it: vacations cost money that some people simply don't have. For some of us, taking time off means not only the cost of the holiday itself, but also the loss of income. The good news is, you don’t have to spend money on a luxurious beach vacation to take care of yourself and avoid burnout. It's totally okay to spend a long weekend at home in your pajamas, eating takeout, and napping with your dog because staycations are the rule. As long as you take the time to unplug, take a break, and create some mental and physical space for yourself away from daily stress, your health and well-being will be better in the long run.