Stress is a major problem in our lives—with 48% of people reporting that stress has a negative impact on their personal and professional lives. And with as many as a third reporting "extreme" stress, one thing is clear: Americans need a way to relieve stress and get away from the daily challenges that can cause physical and psychological symptoms.
One potential solution: the sabbatical. A sabbatical is an extended vacation away from work that’s meant to reinvigorate and re-energize. And since so many Americans work almost 1,800 hours per year—far more than France’s average of 1,482—it’s clear that some of us need time away from work that goes beyond the standard two-day weekend. Here are four reasons to take a sabbatical:
1. We need more time
According to recent data, Americans are taking even less time to vacation away from work than in years past, with an average of two weeks per year. That’s down from three weeks per year on average in the year 2000. As Americans work harder and harder to make ends meet, that work takes a toll over the course of the year. Rather than two one-week long vacations, many Americans might find it serves them better to take one long extended sabbatical instead.
2. A sabbatical helps relieve stress
Think of a sabbatical as a way to hit the “reset” button on stress. A survey of more than 400 travelers found that 94% of respondents reported having either similar or increased energy upon returning from their vacations.
Relieving stress is a major issue for hard-working Americans. Stress can wreak havoc in our personal lives, causing problems that range from poor nutrition to bad sleep habits. Finding a way to relieve that stress via a sabbatical can be an invaluable way to recharge.
3. Sabbaticals are less stressful than vacations
Sometimes, vacations in and of themselves can have a negative influence on stress. The combined demand of budgeting and logistics—along with the pressure to fit everything in a minuscule one-week time frame—makes people feel more apprehensive about their vacations than they should be.
In the survey quoted above, vacations were especially effective if they were low-stress, with 55% of respondents affirming that they increased in energy and rejuvenation because of that low-stress vacation.
A sabbatical can be one method of taking such a vacation—reducing the pressure to fit a month’s worth of sightseeing into one single week can not only make the entire experience more enjoyable, but it can allow more time for rest and relaxation. That better serves the original point of the vacation in the first place: to regain lost energy.
One way to reduce the impact of stress during our vacations: proper planning. Using credit cards and credit card rewards to lessen the cost of a short vacation can give it more sabbatical-like effects, erasing the budgetary worry that often accompanies American vacations—not to mention the guilt.
4. Sabbaticals positively impact the feeling of well-being
A survey of professors who qualified for sabbaticals found that their stress did indeed go down and their overall feelings of energy and well-being went up. They also felt more able to access the psychological resources they needed to do better at their jobs. It’s important to note that these sabbaticals came in the context of those who could afford to take sabbaticals without fear of losing their jobs—such as professors with tenures at their institutions.
But what about other workers? How might they be able to take sabbaticals they can afford? Here are a few potential strategies:
Maximizing rewards points. Credit cards with travel rewards can make it easier to find affordable flights to new locations, which helps enhance the feeling of being truly “away” from it all.
Planning. Planning a vacation ahead of time can require putting money down upfront. If you plan ahead, you'll have more time to save and scour the web for cheaper flights and accomodations.
Company programs. Some companies have existing programs that let employees take sabbaticals. If there isn't already a program in place, reach out to your HR person. It might be the case that the company is willing to offer a program and just hasn't thought of it.
There is no getting around it, Americans works hard. But with a truly extended vacation in the form of a sabbatical, many American workers can find the rejuvenation they need—without the time away from work adding to their levels of stress.
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