Why your brain needs a spring break

As our country continues through the "great resignation," it seems unfathomable that Americans are collectively suffering from a vacation deficit. According to the Center for American Progress, Americans are working longer and harder than any other country and our brains need a break. The U.S is one of the few wealthy nations without a national paid parental leave. New parents are only one group burning the candle at both ends. This leads to higher burnout and more absences due to accumulated stress effects on the body.

Americans have trouble taking vacation and, if they do, many don’t get enough time to recover and relax. Our brains were not meant to deal with the hours most of us work. More than 48 hours a week doubles the stress load and puts you at an increased risk of heart disease. Overtime is effective for well-rested employees, but that’s rarely the reality.

Taking a spring break is not a luxury but an important endeavor to plan and carry through. Money cannot buy happiness or perfect health so make it your responsibility to protect your brain from burnout and restore creativity and motivation. Below are five suggestions to take on your spring break with you. While you pack, I hope you’ll UNPACK any guilt for taking time away and any plans to be productive on break.

1. Focus on what you love doing and plan your vacation around that. Doing what you love and being surrounded with activities to support your passion can help you unwind and fill you with inspiration. Your vacation doesn’t have to be or look like anyone else’s.

2. Plan at least two lingering dinners with friends. During the normal week, it’s difficult to have a relaxed, lingering dinner. We watch our phones and take calls, worry about work the next day, and eat so quickly we may forget what we’ve ordered. Enjoying a dinner with ample time and not rushing to leave is a wonderful short spring break for your brain.

3. Take time on your break to daydream and do nothing. Many of us are on such a productive hamster wheel that we feel pressured to accomplish something. If you take that attitude on your spring break, you’ll be unable to do what your brain needs – doing nothing. When you daydream or zone out, you give your brain the break it needs to restore, reboot, and refocus. These are so important for your ability to perform at work and create new ideas.

4. Connect with play. What makes you happy? What do you love doing? Some people are so burned out, they no longer remember what makes them happy. They cannot think or remember the last time they took a play day. Play is as essential to mental health for both children and adults. Playing keeps us youthful and reminds us of how much we have to be grateful for. If you can’t remember what you use to like to play, think about what you’d like to do in retirement and practice doing that on your spring break.

5. Take time to move. Movement is a wonderful way to enhance our brain’s healing. Whether it’s sunrise yoga or a nature walk, make time on your spring break to move every day. The body will feel better, and your thinking will gain clarity. Rhythmic moving enhances your memory and calms your mind.

A spring break is more than just a get away from daily responsibilities – it’s healing for your brain and restores your physical health. Don’t let work and the need to be productive rob you of the benefits of time away. Put those worries away for now and take a break; they will be waiting for you when you return rested and restored and in a much better place to handle them.

The benefits to spring cleaning your relationship

Psychotherapist Mary Jo Rapini says you should open the closets of your relationship and begin throwing out the times you’ve taken each other for granted by starting these five new habits to break through the humdrum and add new life to your relationship.