This post is a modified version of an article that originally appeared on BizCommBuzz.
By the end of the academic year, most of us are counting the days until we can get a little R&R over summer break. It’s no wonder, considering the intellectual, emotional and physical demands of teaching. Between new technology training, course prep, administrative duties, students’ needs, and relentless grading, summer can—and should—be a time to rest, relax and recover, so that we can recommit to our jobs come fall.
Too often, we end up using our summer break to catch up on research or writing. We compare notes with colleagues and occasionally grouse when we should actually take vacation time much more seriously.
Science backs this up, and it all has to do with stress. Stress builds up over the course of the year and can be so toxic that it leads to burnout. It can even lead to poor digestion, anxiety, depression and irritability. Sound familiar?
The Science of Vacation
Multiple studies show that vacations ease stress by removing us from the people and environments that cause that stress. Getting away from it all breaks your usual pattern and allows you to rejuvenate yourself. Research indicates that vacationers experience fewer headaches and backaches. Taking time off even appears to be good for your heart. Better sleep is yet another result of vacations—because vacations change up our habits, they reset our sleeping patterns, so we sleep better.
Aside from physical reasons to stop and smell the roses, research shows that taking time off actually improves productivity back at work. Constant working at peak capacity (or close to it) ironically hinders us from doing our best work. The Boston Consulting Group found that employees who vacationed were happier as well as more efficient workers than their counterparts who didn’t. Frequent vacationers tend to remain at their jobs longer, too, the researchers found.
The Best Summer Break
One of the problems with vacations, however, is that they often become another source of stress. The following pointers can help your summer break do what it’s supposed to.
- Plan ahead. Research your destination so you can choose activities and reserve tickets.
- Know laws and regulations. If traveling, be aware of your destination’s laws and regulations.
- Enjoy yourself. Let go of guilt about taking time for yourself.
- Check email…if you must. Many people feel stress about the pile-up of unanswered emails. If you’re one of them, check your email when you’re away. It’s better than worrying about it.
- Try something new. Challenges that take you out of your comfort zone will help you feel replenished.
- Plan for contingencies. Make sure you have whatever you need to feel comfortable..
As teachers, we don’t work traditional hours. We can be responding to student emails at midnight on a Sunday or preparing a lesson at 6 a.m. for a 10 a.m. class. Summer break is the time for us to take advantage of time away from the academy, so that we can alleviate teacher stress, take care of faculty burnout and return fresh and ready for the next batch of students.
So go ahead, listen to the science of vacation. Enjoy your summer!