Want to know how you can cut your stress in half?

How about if there were two things you could change that would drastically alter your stress levels for the rest of your life?

Now I bet you really want to know, right?

What if I told you that doing these simple things will not only decrease your stress levels, but will also make you happier and decrease your risk of heart attack, ulcers, & high blood pressure?

Ready for this? Four words: Stop Rushing, Take Vacation.

Yes, that’s it. It’s really quite simple, but the results that you will see if you make these changes will amaze you.

The Problems
So why is rushing & a lack of vacation such a huge problem? Well, rushing every now and then wouldn’t really be such a problem. But in today’s society, the reality is that we don’t just rush every now and then. We rush all of the time.

We are constantly hurrying from one thing to the next, multitasking, with our minds in five different places at once. We browse the Web in multiple Windows. We watch television while surfing the Web. We talk on our house phones while texting on our cell phones/iPhones/Blackberrys. While we’re driving to work, we’re planning our days, who we’ll see at each meeting, and what we’re having for dinner. While we’re eating dinner, we’re checking our email, responding to emails, and thinking about what’s on TV that night. While we’re watching TV that night, we’re thinking about everything we’ve got to do tomorrow. You get the picture…

The Facts
The United States is one of (if not the) most stressful, fast-paced, uptight societies in existence. The “American way” of rush, rush, rush has huge negative implications. And sadly, the rest of the world is beginning to follow suit. It’s not a good path to be on.

Here are some statistics about minimum vacation days around the world:

Austria — 35 days
Brazil — 30 days
Finland — 35 days
Sweden — 32 days
Ukraine — 24 days
United States — 7 days
(Source: http://nationmaster.com)

7 days? Really? WTF United States!?!?!?

Every year Expedia.com launches an intense Vacation Deprivation survey to gather the facts & the effects of American Vacation Deprivation.

Check out these stats:

Notice that despite earning the least amount of annual vacation days, Americans will still leave an average of 3 days unused! This goes to show that so many Americans don’t even use the little vacation time that they get! Not good.

Why is Vacation So Important?
Let’s talk about mental health.

  • 34% of Americans say they come back from vacation feeling better about their jobs and are even more productive.
  • 53% of employed U.S. adults say they come back feeling rested and rejuvenated after vacation.
  • 53% of employed U.S. adults say they come back feeling reconnected with family after vacation.

It’s no big secret that work can be stressful. Even if you absolutely adore your career, you still have the occasional (or frequent) challenging day. If you refuse to take a breather every now & then, you are putting your mental health and your relationships at risk.

Obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, ulcers, anxiety, depression, and so on are all symptoms of stress. Stress causes cortisol to build up in your body, the cortisol is then stored as dangerous fat. In addition to all of the physical symptoms of stress, there is the issue of rushing around. When you are rushing nonstop from place to place, it’s easy to stop for fast-food because you don’t make the time to cook nutritious meals for yourself and your family.

If you look at the rates of obesity around the globe, you probably won’t be shocked to see where the United States fits in.

That’s right, numero uno. Not a good place to be in this case. Americans are the most obese individuals in the world. A sad fact to note considering that we are also some of the richest people, with some of the most vast & diverse availability to nutritious & wholesome food. (Please watch Food, Inc. for more information on this topic.)

Turning the Tide
The facts are straightforward. Constant rushing & vacation deprivation will cause you harm. Here are 3 super simple ways that you can combat these harmful habits.

1. Practice efficient time management. Keep a calendar and don’t overbook yourself, no exceptions. We all have a ton of stuff that we want to get done, but we have to prioritize. Choose the tasks that mean the most to you and will provide you with the best ROI (return on investment). Don’t commit to anything that doesn’t benefit you, your career, your family, or your friends in a big way. Your time is precious and you should treat it as such.

2. Use your vacation time, all of it. No matter how many days that your company allots for vacation, make sure and use it. If your company tends to be on the real stingy side with vacation, don’t be afraid to set a confidential meeting with your HR director to point out the importance of sufficient vacation time. Sufficient vacation time is mutually beneficial — you will feel better and thereby, your performance will improve. Win – Win!

Likewise, if you work for yourself, make sure to pencil in enough time for R & R.

3. Breathe. When you are rushing, you are most likely breathing shallow. Shallow breathing causes rapid heart rate & conversely, deep breathing causes a slower heart rate. Take time to observe your breathing throughout the day. If you find yourself shallow breathing, take a deep breath in through your nostrils. Let the air flow through your chest & deep into the pit of your stomach. Allow your stomach to expand, like a balloon, as it fills with air. Then slowly exhale through your nose and expel all of the air from your body. Breathe in deeply again, allowing the air to fill your stomach as before. Each time you inhale, take in the positive energy & light around you. Let it fill & calm your soul. Each time you exhale, push out your negative energy & fear. Continue to do this until you feel calm.

* — * — * — * — *

Slow down, be in the now.

5 thoughts on “3 Super Simple Ways to Reduce Stress, Improve Health, & Live Happy”

  1. Tough one, taking vacation time.

    I know a friend of mine is working essentially unpaid part of the time… in a state job. The alternative? Layoff.

    I totally agree in principle. Our entire culture is going to have to change to put it into practice.

    1. Hey Dave, thanks so much for the comment. You are 100% correct. In order to create this important change in culture, it would need to be a societal transformation. However, all change — down to the hugest revolutions — must start somewhere.

      The story of your friend breaks my heart. My best friend needs to have a fairly major/important surgery. However, she’s been putting it off for nearly 6 months. Not because she doesn’t have insurance, but because she has no vacation or sick time and she literally can not afford to take a day off and lose her wages.

      I have a big problem with a lot of things, my goal is to plant the seeds of change in my own small way. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to do that here. Thank you for always being so supportive of my efforts.

      You are a great friend, Dave. 🙂

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