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Need Relief From Work-Related Stress? A Long Vacation May Not Be the Answer

By Maurie Backman – Sep 22, 2019 at 9:48AM

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Here's a solution that could work better for escaping the grind while actually relieving tension.

Many of us experience our share of work-related stress, whether it's looming deadlines, toxic managers, or the general grind that comes with holding down a job. And when that stress really gets bad, it can put us at risk of full-fledged burnout.

Now for some people, the solution to this problem is none other than an extended break from the office. In fact, you'll often hear that long vacations are healthy; they give you a chance to clear your mind and return to work feeling energized and refreshed.

A man puts an item of clothing in an open suitcase spread out on a bed.

IMAGE SOURCE: GETTY IMAGES.

But in some regards, long vacations are more trouble than they're worth. When you take a lengthy vacation, you risk returning to a seemingly insurmountable workload and an inbox that's bursting at the seams. Once that happens, suddenly, the rest and relaxation you enjoyed is wiped out and replaced with feelings of pressure and anxiety -- the same sentiments you were hoping to mitigate by taking that vacation in the first place. That's why it pays to reconsider the idea of taking a long vacation to escape work stress -- and take shorter breaks instead.

The benefits of a quick getaway

Some folks might argue that short getaways don't provide enough of a break from work to effectively alleviate stress. But in a recent poll by global human resources company Cornerstone, 87% of workers said that three-day weekends are actually better for stress relief than longer escapes. The reason? Shorter breaks offer some mental benefits, but they also don't come with the preparation and aftermath of longer ones.

In the aforementioned poll, workers with a tendency to take long vacations reported working longer hours upon returning to the office -- not surprising. Those same workers also grew more stressed than they were prior to taking those breaks. In fact, more than 50% of employees said they regularly work longer hours upon returning from vacation. A shorter break, however, can help you avoid that unwanted scenario.

Scoring shorter periods of time off may also be easier from a logistics perspective. Some managers give employees who wish to take longer breaks a hard time, or mandate that they secure coverage in their absence. But if you're only popping out of the office for a day or two at a time, chances are, you can catch up on what you missed once you return without really falling behind, and without having to burden someone else to pick up your slack. Furthermore, taking a shorter break requires less advanced prep; and there's nothing worse than starting off a vacation in a sleep-deprived state because you were forced to burn the midnight oil the entire week leading up to it.

Of course, this isn't to say that you shouldn't take a longer vacation just because you're gainfully employed. Rather, consider the merits of a shorter trip the next time your head feels like it's about to explode and you're itching for a well-deserved break. You may find that escaping for just a couple of days gives you all of the upside of a vacation without the rigorous prep beforehand and the inevitable scramble afterward.

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