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Take a break from upsetting news cycles

There’s a new, sardonic joke cropping up more and more on social media. It has developed in response to an increasingly-concentrated news cycle which has been reliably upsetting. For many, exposure to this cycle is draining and tiring. The joke, which takes different forms or structures, is always a configuration of this formula: “Wow, this day has lasted for a year.”

 

It’s given to hyperbole, which is part of both the fun and the point—it’s risen in step with an increasingly severe deluge of concerning news stories. But it also articulates a very real and serious issue: citizens who are engaged with national and international news are being exhausted by it.

This is distressing not least of all because the goal is in fact to have an entire citizenry that is informed about and, ideally, involved with their nation’s top news events. But staying constantly attuned to this news can be traumatic, especially when the news revolves around allegations of sexual assault like those put forth against Brett Kavanaugh, or the Environmental Protection Agency’s relaxing of radiation protections. These are patently troubling topics for all, but for those who have personal associations with them, these news stories—which are hard to avoid—can be especially triggering for feelings of depression, anxiety, and hopelessness.

In light of this, folks across the world have begun to formulate coping strategies to insulate themselves from this omnipresent content. These include tools to curate what we’re exposed to online, to stepping away from the web altogether. Here are a few tips to try if you feel like taking a break from the troubles of the moment.

 

Use Keyword Blocks On Social Media

If you’re someone who often uses Twitter, Facebook, or other social media that expose you to news, you should consider employing the various keyword-blocking mechanisms that each of these platforms offers. Facebook recently installed their Keyword Snooze feature, which allows users to block content that contains certain words for a set amount of time. Twitter’s Mute function is pretty much the same in practice. It’s explained well here, and, like Keyword Snooze, will prevent tweets with specific words from entering your feed. You can use these tools to block triggering content from mucking up your timeline.

 

Decline Conversations About Tough Topics

An important note on these issues is that they will affect people differently. For example, someone who is a survivor of sexual assault is more likely to be upset by discussions of Bill Cosby’s trial than someone who isn’t. It’s important to remember that we aren’t obligated to participate in conversations that cause us discomfort. Feel free to say, ‘I’d rather not talk about that right now,’ or excuse yourself from the discussion.

 

 

 

Step Away From Your Screen

Even with keyword-blocking features on social media, unexpected bad news can still find its way to us through our computer, our phone, or our TV. It’s more important than ever to step away from these screens and center ourselves in our world with physical surroundings. Try going for a short (or long!) walk, or doing something else that requires simple motor skills. These tasks can help alleviate stress and help to calm senses.


Columbus Day in The Workplace

October brings with it a number of notable holidays. Candy and costumes reign on Halloween, an undeniably fun, if somewhat objectively absurd, celebration. International Day Of The Girl, observed on October 11th, celebrates girls and women across the world, and seeks to address the unique challenges they face. October 1st marks perhaps the one holiday that every human on the planet could agree to participate in: International Coffee Day.

In the United States, as well as countries in Central and South America, Columbus Day has been observed for over a century. Under President Franklin Roosevelt, it became a federal holiday in 1934; in 1971, it was officially attached to the second Monday in October. As its name suggests, the holiday is dedicated to Italian explorer Christopher Columbus’ ‘discovery’ of North America.

 

The word discovery is placed between quotation marks because, as we can now factually assert, Columbus did not discover North America. It had already been discovered, and in fact was home to thriving populations of Indigenous peoples across the continent—estimates put pre-contact population at around 10 million. Columbus is, through the holiday, credited with founding modern North American civilization. But he is also now credited with beginning the enslavement and destruction of another, one which has struggled to thrive post-contact.

 

This is where Columbus Day becomes an issue: it means different things to different people, but not in the innocuous, ‘I don’t celebrate that’ way. To Indigenous people on this continent, it is a celebration of a man who committed genocide against their populations; in a 2015 article, Washington Post asserted, “Did genocide directly result from [Columbus’] decrees and his family’s commercial aims? Yes.” In recent years, this information has been widely-platformed across the United States, where Columbus Day is most prominent. It’s resulted in states and cities across the nation rejecting Columbus Day, instead choosing to replace it with holidays that honor their native populations.

 

In South Dakota, it’s known as Native American Day; in Oregon, Indigenous Peoples’ Day. This phrasing, originated in the states by the municipality of Berkeley, California in 1992, has been picking up by other cities: Seattle, Los Angeles, Denver, Austin, Salt Lake City, Cambridge, and more observe Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

 

Given that Columbus Day is a contentious and potentially offensive occasion, it’s important to plan alternatives for your workplace—perhaps celebrations like those modeled by the aforementioned municipalities. Consider educating your staff on the histories of Columbus’ violent campaigns in the Americas, or the past and present issues visited upon Indigenous populations by colonial campaigns. Education and understanding are key tenets of a healthy, inclusive workplace, and altering how Columbus Day is celebrated in the workplace is a step towards a healthier work environment.


Why the Gig Economy Is Affecting Worker’s Mental Health

Since the Industrial Revolution started nearly three centuries ago to this current day, the nature of employment has been in constant flux. From the hard-earned victories of organized labor to the efficiencies gained from mechanization and automation, people have straightened their ties and laced up their work boots to get things done and build a better and bigger world.

We’ve adapted to these changes and for the most part, the trends have moved to provide greater work/life balance.

But if you read the headlines these days, it seems something is amiss: for some, postsecondary degrees don’t go as far as they used to in the job market, increased globalization has led to increased offshoring of once dependable jobs, automation is threatening to replace workers. And then there’s the arrival of the gig economy.

Wait – what’s the gig economy?

While in the U.S., the unemployment rate is at a 17-year low, nearly 1 in 4 workers now earn money from the digital platform economy. For the most part, the gig economy arrived early with temp labor and has been popularized in the context of digital age employers, like Uber, Jiffy and other task-based services, that have led to more and more workers employed on a per job basis – sometimes without the prospect of vacation, sick leave, health benefits or employment certainty.

By jumping from gig to gig, workers could be taking on significant stress, isolation and physical ailments while pursuing precarious work. Another identified impact: struggling to find an authentic work identity when trying to fulfill multiple roles that require different personas.

Another hazard: going it alone can mean you’re at a greater risk of injury, especially when trying to maximize the number of “gigs” you’re doing to earn a greater pay-off. As the Financial Times references, demand for food delivery is often highest when conditions are hazardous, creating a lucrative lure for bike couriers that could lead to injury.

Yet with all the troubling effects that the gig economy could be afflicting on workers, there’s a reason why this article’s title refers to “affecting” instead of “hurting”.  The gig economy has freed some workers from the confines of the set 9 to 5 workday and allowed them to work when it’s convenient for their schedules.

Especially for those within a creative sector, the gig economy gives them the opportunity to be able to manage their work by choosing the jobs they want to do; helping avoid the burnout of fulfilling orders passed down by a manager.

So if you’re a worker who is either working “full-time” in the gig economy or moonlighting to earn a few extra dollars on the side, how can you ensure that you’re staying on top of your mental and physical health?

  1. Budget your time and salary accordingly: given that flexibility is one of the key draws of working in the gig economy, managing your day so you have more personal time is a huge plus. But financial insecurity at the end of the month can cause significant stress. Plan how much you need to earn, stick to a budget and track your progress regularly to keep going strong.
  2. Know when to rest: maximizing your earnings by working constantly can be alluring but can lead to serious physical and mental health risks. Try to stick to an eight-hour work day at most – there’s a reason why this has become the standard for most developed nations. If you’re stressed, sick or need a break, take it: resting now could save you from burnout and ultimately more necessary time-off down the line.

 

  1. Stay social: for many jobs in the gig economy, the work is often independent, which can lead to isolation and its detrimental impacts on mental health. Find ways to engage with those around you, whether they’re clients, other gig workers and even strangers on the street. Take time out of your day to visit or have a phone call with a friend or family member. You’ll feel happier and more connected to the world around you.

 

We can’t say for sure whether the gig economy is definitively the way of the future. For sure, it’s significantly changed the shape of today’s workforce. In just a few decades, we went from stories of workers that spent their entire careers at one place of employment to those juggling several jobs at once. If you are working in the gig economy, make sure you take the time to take care of yourself and ensure that you’ll be ready to tackle the next gig that comes along.


How Keeping a Journal Could Help You Maintain Strong Mental Health

We’ve all heard the saying, “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”, but how about journaling everyday can keep depression at bay?

A growing body of evidence suggests that writing is a potent form of therapy that can help practitioners better manage their mental health, including as a helpful tool for those diagnosed with major depressive disorder.

Further research is required but there’s also evidence that suggests narrative writing recounting traumatic events could also provide an approach to addressing posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Given the stereotypes of famous writers that suffered from depression and other mental health challenges, we might be led to the assumption that the emotional and solitary activity of transforming thought into written expression can be a mentally and spiritually exhausting pursuit.

Leave it to Dan Harmon, celebrated storyteller and show writer to explain that by putting pen to page or finger to keyboard, you unleash a way to get those “dark thoughts” out of the “walls of your skull” that brings forth a “miraculous magic”.

Some more magic: James W. Pennebaker, a social psychologist researcher and professor at the University of Texas even suggests that journaling even works to strengthen your immune function; making you more resilient mentally and physically to past trauma and future challenges.

Another study found that asthma and rheumatoid arthritis patients that wrote for 20 minutes on each day about stressful events and daily activities saw improved health and deteriorated less, compared to the control group.

But how does it work? WebMD writer Kara Mayer Robinson found that journaling helps its practitioners by:

  1. Providing greater self awareness of yourself and emotional process
  2. Reducing the overwhelming burden by making the stressors appear more manageable
  3. Allowing you to retrain your brain by writing about happier events and focusing on the positive
  4. Detect patterns and triggers and help you avoid them later on

Not sure when to journal? Any time of day will do: it really depends on when it’s convenient for you and when you feel the need to put pen to paper. But if you want to put a happier tone to the text, try the morning: a study that analyzed the data from millions of public Twitter messages found that individuals awaken in a good mood that tends to deteriorate as the day progresses.

The other important part of journaling is sticking with it. If your pressed for time, try the Five Minute Journal technique. Famous self-help author and master of skill and time management Tim Ferriss is also a big fan.

Ultimately, journaling helps you to understand you and in turn, provides the opportunity for you to reorient yourself by focusing your written words on what affects you and what you want to achieve. So whether you’re typing a note on your phone or filling lined sheets with cursive, give journaling a shot –  it’ll give you insights into who you are and who you can become.

 


Managing Back to School Stress

The changing of the seasons are not singular events. They’re a multiplicitous experience: our wardrobes, routines, leisure activities, commutes, and even our diets, change. As the traditional school year starts and summer vacation ends, the roll-over from August to September is exciting and opportune for many folks, but for others, this is a time of year that spikes stress levels.

The reasons for this, too, can compound: change is not as welcome for some as it is for others. After months of sunny days spent outside, a return to classrooms and academic rigor is jarring. It’s important to identify and address stressors before they begin to handcuff our ability to participate in the day-to-day of our education.

To this end, we’ve put together a short list of stress-managing strategies to practice when you’re feeling overwhelmed by the schoolroom grind.

Use A Day Planner

This is admittedly elementary (pun fully intended), but using a day planner is something many of us think about, and few of us actually commit to. We’re not talking about a digital calendar—we mean a good, old-fashioned, analog, paper-and-pen planner. There are a few reasons for this. First, and maybe most importantly, writing information down on paper has been shown to improve information retention. Second, it’s helpful to cement our commitments in physical form. This gives them a sort of permanence that can help to hold us to them. It also leads us to address and analyze our capabilities: if we see a stacked day planner, we might better be able to prioritize which tasks need our attention first. This development of a sort of ‘plan of action’ can help us to feel like we have a handle on our stressors, and having a feeling of agency over our stress is of paramount importance.

 

Talk About Your Stressors

When we’re stressed out by something, one of the worst things that we can do is internalize it. This habit can lead to or exacerbate both mental and physical health issues. On the other hand, when we externalize stress via speech or writing, it can help to relieve some of the pressure caused by it. Not only might this lead to productive understandings or even solutions to our stressors, but it also grants them legitimacy and validity. This is important, because often we’re frustrated or ashamed by what’s causing us stress: discussing it in the open strips it of that stigma.

 

Develop A Healthy Routine

As school and its associated time constraints take over our schedule, it can be easy to feel locked into a routine that doesn’t allow us time for the leisure activities we enjoy. But in some cases, this comes down to a question of time-management, and developing that skill is key to leading a healthy, well-balanced life during the school year. Making time for a full breakfast might mean waking up half an hour earlier. Squeezing in a workout might mean cutting an hour of Netflix. Going to bed before midnight might require wrapping up homework early in the evening. Whatever the struggle is, it’s critical to assess the situation, and decide where you can make concessions to create a routine that keeps you on top and thriving.


Being ‘Yourself’ at Work

As workplaces change to adapt to the pace and characteristics of 21st century business practices, finding a foothold on personal operating habits can be challenging. On one hand, progressive, personalized, and idiosyncratic approaches are heralded as ‘the future.’ On the other, these traits, when unaccompanied by increased profitability, are ostracized as impractical and frivolous. The modern worker is caught between the desire to exercise and be recognized for their individual tenacity and creativeness, and the fear that these qualities might be met with disdain or, worse, professional repercussions.

 

This tango of ‘being yourself at work’ has become blurrier still as workplaces become diffuse and increasingly mediated by digital technology. How do we ‘be ourselves’ not just in person, but online? Do we pitch that bold idea via email? Do we look too eager if we replace the period with an exclamation mark?

These are the strange new frontiers of professionalism at work, and they’re growing. Between Gmail, Slack channels, and a broad range of social media, how we conduct ourselves is a constantly-mediated and always-watched affair. This adds to an ever-building layer of personal pressure in our work environments.

 

Navigating these quandaries can be intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. Developing a set of skills and interests is just as important as enacting strategies for the deployment of those skills and interests. This means that, as workplace standards fluctuate, we can, too: we should learn to tailor who ‘yourself’ is to the needs of our workplaces.

At times, this might mean compromising on an idea or explicit vision for a project. At others, it might mean code-switching, or bouncing between ways of communicating with coworkers. The point of this isn’t to police personality, but rather to keep it attuned to the demands and realities of any given workplace. The loose uniform policy at your last office might not fly at your new one, but just because you’ve strapped on dress shoes and a button-up doesn’t mean your essence is compromised; it means you’re adjusting your presentation of that essence.

 

This is really the core of the issue: we tend to feel that if we give an inch, we’ve given a mile. This is especially true when it comes to personal issues. But for workers, learning to take these shifts in stride is a trick of the trade. Social morals and ethics are, in many cases, worth taking a stand over. Your right to wear your wacky tie to work is not. And one of these is significantly more indicative of ‘yourself’ than the other.

 

The key to this struggle is to recognize the fluidity of ‘yourself,’ and where it can and can’t be applied at work. You, as a person, are not being shut down when you don’t get to embody your preferred aesthetic. Instead, focus on the contents of your work: if the means aren’t your thing, is the end at least a product that reflects ‘yourself?’ In other words, it’s not about how many exclamation marks you put in an email. It’s about what you’re saying between them.


Get Vaccinated: Spread Facts, Not Disease

In August, the National Public Health Information Coalition (NPHIC) in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) sponsor National Immunization Awareness Month (NIAM) to build awareness about the importance of vaccination.

We’ve come a long way since 1796 – that’s when Edward Jenner developed the first successful vaccine: the Smallpox vaccine. In the 20th century, it’s estimated that Smallpox has killed 300 to 500 million people. But thanks to vaccination, there has not been a reported case of Smallpox in the world since 1977 and the disease was officially declared eradicated in 1979.

However, since the advent of vaccines and their application to prevent, cure and eradicate diseases, there has been a simultaneous reactionary movement that has sought to portray vaccines as a form of mind control or as a cocktail of harmful chemicals that cause more harm than they’re worth: as they’re commonly referred to, “anti-vaxxers”.

This topic might seem more public health than mental health and you’d be right: vaccinations are not just about individual wellbeing but collective immunity. But as far as the anti-vaxx movement goes, they’ve incorrectly linked vaccines to disorders like autism and mental illnesses. And in terms of their mental health, anti-vaxxers are likely guilty of having a disproportionate tendency toward certain behavioural issues, like a higher than normal tendency toward conspiratorial thinking and reactance.

Interestingly, in that same study, which included more than 5,323 people across 24 countries, also found that the level of education had little effect on individual’s attitudes on vaccination.

For these reasons, anti-vaccination hysteria, while still an education issue shouldn’t be treated simply as a symptom of socio-economic status or access to information but as an offshoot of anti-social behaviour. As Robert Stoker, Professor at George Washington University adds, those that chose to immunize themselves or their children were noted to identify altruism – simply the concern for the well-being of others – as a motivating factor.

One of the leading contributors to the proliferation of anti-vaccination views has been social media. Being provided a platform to freely publish disinformation, seek out others within your community and to anonymously attack others has given the anti-vaxx movement a greater foothold than ever before.

That’s bad. As the effects of “Fake News” begin to take hold, younger generations without the experience to discern the difference between truth and fiction are more susceptible than others to anti-vaxx disinformation.

What can we do about it? Given that those inclined toward anti-vaxx beliefs tend toward conspiratorial paranoia and anti-government views, providing access to the facts through alternative channels has been shown to work. Leveraging the same social media networks that are used to spread misinformation and providing facts through shareable, easy-to-read content is also another possible angle of approach.

If you know an anti-vaxxer, perhaps all it could take to help is to reach out: a study found that ostracization can enhance one’s beliefs in conspiracies. Socializing the truth can become a gateway to education and defeating misinformation.

While vaccinations help provide a collective immunity so that people can live longer and thrive, anti-vaccination misinformation is seeking to undermine that hard earned freedom. It’s important that we treat the anti-vaxx community in a way that acknowledges their public health threat instead of as an idle curiosity and take action to spread facts, not disease.

 

 

 


Drug Addiction and Death: Don’t Become a Statistic

At the end of this month, people from across the world will recognize a struggle that in 2016 alone, killed more Americans than the entirety of the Vietnam War.

But this battle isn’t being fought with guns and bombs in a faraway country. It’s being fought in your home country, in your hometown, in the streets, in the hospitals and perhaps, in your home.

August 31st is International Overdose Awareness Day: a decades strong initiative designed to shine a spotlight on the hundreds of thousands of near-fatal and fatal overdoses every year and reduce the stigma so that compassionate, evidence-based policy can take hold and wipe out this deadly epidemic.

And while you might think that this isn’t something that could affect you, the answer is a little closer to home: The United States experiences approximately one quarter of estimated global drug-related deaths. Of that, overdose related deaths – particularly driven by opioids – have tripled between 1999 and 2015. That number only appears to be rising, with increasing availability of synthetic opioids like fentanyl and stronger analogs like carfentanil a major factor.

In 2017, The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime estimated that a minimum of 190,000 people die prematurely from drug overdoses; with the “majority attributable to the use of opioids”. In reality, the true number of premature deaths is likely exponentially larger than reported: in many places, drug users are a “forgotten” people, a marginalized demographic unlikely to report overdoses for fear of persecution for illegal drug use and at the same time, discounted by indifferent governments and law enforcement agencies.

With International Overdose Awareness Day, the intent is to make this issue everyone’s concern: not just the problem of drug users, their families and those involved in relevant social work and law enforcement roles. If we can hold a conversation, as a society, we can bring those affected out of the shadows and create policies and initiatives that can prevent future overdoses.

We don’t have all the answers right now but there is evidence behind several approaches to curbing drug abuse and overdoses. For instance, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identified that the amount of opioids prescribed per person had tripled between 1999 and 2015.

Remember a few paragraphs above where we identified that fatal overdoses attributable to opioids had also tripled during that same period? You should – because of the over prescription and highly addictive nature of opioids, a medical script can often be a gateway to other opioids, like heroin. That’s way many public health experts are calling for reductions in opioid prescriptions through different medical interventions. One floated solution: medical marijuana as a means to treat chronic pain.

Other evidence-based policies that have been shown to work are providing free or subsidized access to addiction services. Disproportionately, people on Medicaid or are low-income are disproportionately at a higher risk for a prescription drug or opioid overdose. Often, the cost of rehabilitative services can be prohibitive to someone suffering from addiction or they may not be able to afford the time off of work to effectively address their addiction in such a setting. Again, this is a public heath policy that requires legislative action to achieve – something that has proven difficult in a political climate focused on the “War on Drugs”.

Ultimately, what you can do right now is make sure that those in your life that might be dealing with addiction issues know that they are not alone and that you are ready to help provide the support they need to overcome. Materially, you can consider carrying Naloxone, a life-saving medication that can stop or reverse an opioid overdose. This injectable drug is now being carried by police officers in Canada and has been recommended by the U.S. Surgeon General for carry to help prevent overdoses.

Drug addiction is a complex issue that won’t be solved overnight or with one policy. But we can take steps right now to help ensure that those suffering don’t have to go it alone and have a better chance of beating the odds. On August 31st, spread the word about International Overdose Awareness Day. You could help save a life.


Revamping the culture of Men’s Health

It’s fitting that Father’s Day falls in the middle of June. The annual holiday arrives this year on June 17, right in the middle of another yearly event: Men’s Health Month. Each June marks a month of increased conversation and focus around men’s health.

 

The occasion is used to single out health issues that men face and raise awareness for them. The campaign focuses on preventability, encouraging men to become more active in caring for themselves. (Studies suggest that men visit the doctor for prevention purposes half as much as women.) Prostate cancer is among the most popularly-discussed diseases during Men’s Health Month, in addition to issues like heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and sexually transmitted infections.

 

But a critical link in the campaign is missing. These issues (preventability, lack of awareness, and a reticence to take care of themselves) can usually be traced back to men’s mental health. Indeed, the John Wayne stoicism of old might not be front and center anymore, but it’s imprint is still left on men who are told to ‘man up’ or, worse yet, ‘stop acting like a girl.’

 

These phrases are weaponized by men against men to police masculinity, and the results are bleak. If you feel your manhood (and, thereby, your personhood) will be jeopardized if you speak up about a pain in your gut, chances are you might stay silent. The same goes for mental illnesses, perhaps more so: according to Mental Health America, over 6 million American men are affected by depression each year, but most cases will go undiagnosed.

 

This is where that culture of stoicism and enforced silence can turn lethal. Undiagnosed mental illness increases risk of suicide, which disproportionately affects young men. In 2010, 79% of Americans who died by suicide were men, with high rates of suicide occurring among marginalized groups including gay and bisexual men. In much the same way an unaddressed tumor can lead to an untimely death, so too can unaddressed mental illness result in suicide.

 

What this tells us is that the narrative around men’s health is shaped by a toxic shaming and subsequent internalization that, often, results in severe or terminal illnesses that could otherwise have been prevented. This suggests, then, that changing the culture could not only reduce rates of preventable illness in men, but could even reduce rates of preventable deaths.

 

So where does that change begin?

That might depend on the situation, but a key shift is to deconstruct the reductive masculinity that most North American men have been conditioned to accept as the norm. This includes being able to have open, empathetic, and sensitive conversations about health, and implementing workplace policy that doesn’t hamstring men, making them choose between an income or their health. All illnesses, including mental illnesses like depression, should be recognized as legitimate cause for sick leave, rather than met with scoffs and, ‘Why don’t you just suck it up?’

 

We need to encourage men to view their pain, bodily and mental, as serious, and deserving of attention and treatment. This goes hand-in-hand with legitimizing men’s health issues when they express them: if a man expresses discomfort or hurt, the appropriate response is not, ‘Quit whining.’ If these off-the-cuff responses continue, so too will heightened rates of undiagnosed illnesses, and higher rates of suicide, in men. Changing our language is one of the first steps to changing the culture around men’s health.

 

This Men’s Health Month, concentrate your efforts on changing how you think and speak about men’s illnesses, and not just the kinds that affect men below the shoulders. Practice empathy and kindness, and encourage your friends to do the same. This culture and preventability are correlated, so with a few small changes, we can make the positive spirit of Men’s Health Month a year-round phenomenon.


Why Summer Vacations Matter – Even to Adults

In just a few weeks, millions of American kids and teenagers (not to mention, teachers) will be able to enjoy a well-earned respite over the next few months – why? As that old song goes, school’s out for the summer.

Summer vacation. For many, growing up, it was the favourite time of the year. The sun shone longer, and the classroom-free days meant we could spend hours on youthful adventure with friends.

Sure, many of us worked summer jobs or found ourselves occupied with more structured pursuits but it was summer vacation nonetheless. That time away from school allowed us to decompress and recalibrate after the stresses of making the grade; which might now feel relatively trivial next to those that many adult Americans now face daily in the workplace.

So why is it that so many working Americans are placing less importance on their need to take a vacation?

The answer might not be so obvious. According to the U.S. Travel Association (USTA), it can’t be blamed on job insecurity or economic anxieties alone. In a 2016 study, USTA researchers found no correlation between unemployment rates and vacation habits or found any evidence that vacations increased with higher consumer confidence rates. One of the culprits, according to the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) is technology. Our greater connectivity has made the world much more accessible, but it’s also become a tether back to our desk and workplace responsibilities. AARP’s survey found that one-third of respondents worked while on vacation.

While in some cases this might be because of a sense of obligation rather than duty to our employer, in the end, it’s likely to cause employees to burn out faster: A Nielson poll found that 71 per cent of American workers who regularly take vacations are satisfied with their jobs, compared to 41% among those who don’t.

Dissatisfaction is one thing but what if not taking vacations meant that ultimately, you might have less time to take them in the future? The longest-running study of cardiovascular disease, the Framington Heart Study found that women who went six year between vacations “were eight times more likely” to develop significant cardiovascular problems, like coronary heart disease or experience a heart attack versus women who vacationed twice a year. Researchers also found that vacation time can also help rebalance sleep patterns, resulting in 80% improvement in reaction times after just two to three days of time off with quality sleep.

Vacations aren’t just for kids. While much of this post has focused on encouraging employees to speak up, plan and take time off, we must recognize that America can do more to ensure employees feel confident and are able to take vacations. According to CNN Travel, unlike every other developed nation in the world, the U.S. provides no required days off for employees. To the north, Canada’s provinces all provide for a minimum of two weeks paid vacation. Across the pond in the U.K., it’s a full 28 days. Employers that value their employees wellbeing – both mentally and physically – should provide adequate paid vacation time for workers to relax. They’ll likely see better performance out of those workers because of it.