The subject of “self-care” is not a new one on this blog. From the beginning, I have stated that in order for us to be there for others, we must first take care of ourselves.
Some of us are better than others at doing this. Americans in general–at least by one standard–are not faring well. In general, we leave a lot of vacation days on the table; in other words, our employers give us a certain number of vacation days and most of us do not make use of all of them. In 2018 (pre-pandemic), according to www.ustravel.org, Americans left a record 768 million days unused, up 17% from the previous year; of those, 236 million were completely forfeited amounting to $65.5 billion in lost benefits!
The figures look even worse when we consider how many vacation days American workers get on compared with other countries. The US on average has 16 paid leave days and 10 public holidays totalling 26 days per year; paid leave days are not necessarily vacation days–that could be used for sick leave, bereavement, etc. Countries such as Great Britain, France, and Brazil are much more generous. Japan and Thailand are at about the same level as the USA.
You can imagine why folks do not use all these days. During the pandemic, a lot of people were working from home and felt that it just was not right to take “more time off,” as if the work being done at home was some kind of vacation; for many people, it was way more stressful than being at the office or other place of work. Others do not take those days off because they fear what will be waiting when they return–either piles of work or missed opportunities. Others still are afraid that if they take the time off, the job will no longer be there when they get back.
The reality is that our society places a premium on production. We cannot “produce” while we are on vacation…or so the logic goes. On the contrary, taking proper time off and engaging self-care will make us more productive in the end. How many of us are feeling completely burned out? How many of us are ready to “take this job and shove it?” How many of us feel caught in a rut. My guess is too many.
Perhaps we as a society need to re-examine our view of vacation and time-off. What price does society pay for a workforce that is tired, “stuck,” and lacking exposure to the world that is out there?
I will set the example. No blogs for the next couple of weeks while I engage in some R&R. See you on the other end–hopefully refreshed, inspired, and full of energy!