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Could Taking Longer Holidays Help You Live Longer?

If you’ve ever wished your holiday vacations would be just a day or two longer, or a few extra days if you’re on a work vacation, you’re not alone. Many people find that it takes longer than whatever time they have off to get totally relaxed and ready to go back to work. Then, again — some people never take time off at all, and researchers say that’s not a good thing.

A five-year-long study shows that taking a holiday from work not only is important for stress reduction, but actually can lengthen your life. And if you think that living an otherwise healthy lifestyle will compensate for lack of vacation time, think again: Research shows shorter holidays are linked to excess deaths, Sunday Times said.

I’ve stressed for years that bringing balance to your work week and life outside of work is vitally important to your overall health. Indeed, multiple studies show that if you work more than 55 hours a week, you may be 40 percent more likely to develop an irregular heartbeat, also known as atrial fibrillation, when compared to someone who works just 35 to 40 hours a week. Not only that, working overtime on a regular basis might be putting you at risk for other illnesses and even injuries.

If you are in a job situation that is upsetting your work-life balance and detracting from the overall quality of your life, it may be time for a change. I believe you will find it worth your time to talk to your employer about possible options to help you reduce stress, be more productive and achieve greater job satisfaction. It's important to remember that working longer hours does not necessarily mean you will be able to get more work done.

Regardless of whether you are able to make changes related to your job, there are several areas you can address in and outside of work that will go a long way in helping you create a more balanced life. For example, it’s important to create a support network outside of work where you can connect with others and experience a “down time” that lets you relax. Other strategies include:

  • Learning to say “no” — Sometimes the stress and strain on your life comes from your inability or unwillingness to set boundaries and limits. Start this week to put some balance in your life by saying "no" to any new request or activity you know will only serve to cause additional stress and imbalance.
  • Looking inward — Because you cannot separate your physical health from your emotional well-being, it is important you take time on a regular basis to look inward. Every feeling you have affects some part of your body, so it is important to notice and address the feelings that come up in the context of your everyday circumstances and relationships.
  • Nurturing yourself — When it’s time for vacation, TAKE IT, meaning don’t take work with you; don’t even open work emails.
  • Prioritizing activities — Being frequently late or constantly feeling hurried are significant stressors, making it important for you to carefully prioritize your activities. By focusing on the aspects of your day that are truly "must do" activities, you put your energy and time where they will garner the most positive effects.