For most of my life, I’ve considered myself a really chill, calm person. I can roll with a lot of punches. As a teacher, I could calm down some of my angriest students because I didn’t yell or scream at them. I don’t get upset about most things. And then in October, after not being able to breathe properly for almost 2 months, I was diagnosed with a panic disorder.
I figured the doctor must have had it wrong. Not me.
But after more tests, it was confirmed: I really do have a panic disorder. The doctor said it might have been triggered from stress—perhaps a lot of stress. (Gee, I wonder where that could be coming from?) And the more I talked to the doctor, the better I was at coming to terms with it. And the more I realized that I really need to learn how to manage my stress better so that I can be a healthier and happier person who can actually breathe.
It’s sad but comforting, too: I’m not alone. Americans have a notoriously tough time taking a break, even when we know that we should. We take a certain pride in always being busy, always being uber-productive, always going-going-going. Especially military spouses.
But the truth is, we’re not Energizer Bunnies.
Military Spouses are people, too! <cue surprise faces everywhere> We need to recognize that there is a real benefit and value to taking time away from our computers, cell phones and desks.
The Case for the Chill Pill: 8 Reasons Why All Military Spouses Need to Chill Out
Science Says You Need It
You literally need time to rest your brain. I’m not talking about sleep, I’m talking about good, old-fashioned R&R for the grey matter between your ears. It’s been proven that when your brain is idle, it will work to solve problems while you’re daydreaming, will organize and store information that you’ve taken in and will actually help to improve your memory. Those are all great reasons for allowing yourself a little downtime.
We’re Working Harder, Relaxing Less
According to a study by Forbes, American workers took an average of 20.3 vacation days in 2000. Just 13 years later, the average worker was only taking off 16 days.
You’re Helping The Man
In that same Forbes study, it was discovered that Americans discarded 169 million paid time-off days in 2013 (the most recent year available). 169 million days. Every single one of those days’ benefits were surrendered which means that American workers essentially gave $52.4 billion back to their employers by not taking advantage of their paid vacation days. That breaks down to about $500 in free labor for every single working American.
Your Body Needs It
Relaxing can help you maintain a healthy weight, reduce stress, keep your heart healthy, improve and maintain your immune system, reduce your risk of a stroke, make better decisions and judgments, reduce flare-ups of skin problems like acne and psoriasis and make you feel more romantic. Pretty good reasons for some downtime, huh?
Your Relationships Need It
Stress can put strains on relationships, especially if both people in that relationship are under a great deal of stress. Taking some time for fun and relaxation can improve both your strong and struggling relationships. Laughter and creating memories together can help two people resolve conflict and strengthen bonds that are already positive.
Your Family Needs It
Feeling refreshed and rejuvenated can help you become a level-headed, more understanding and more forgiving parent. Since parents set the tone for the way relationships and interactions should be treated and maintained, being able to think clearly and be your best self is really important.
Related: Stop Worrying About It. Seriously. Stop It.
It Breaks the Cycle
Chilling out by going on vacation can actually break your stress cycle. According to Psychology Today, “We emerge from a successful vacation feeling ready to take on the world. We gain perspective on our problems, get to relax with our families and friends and get a break from our usual routines.”
Vacation is essentially a reset button. Use it.
You’ll Work Harder
More rest and relaxation means a lower possibility of burn-out at your job. And believe it or not, taking some time off for you will make you more productive. An internal study by Ernst & Young’s employees “found that for each additional 10 hours of vacation employees took, their year-end performance ratings from supervisors…improved by 8 percent.” I don’t know about you, but that’s a good enough reason for me!
I’ll admit it—I am still doing a mediocre job at relaxing. It’s hard for me to turn my brain off and just be. I’m working on it and I’m hoping to work on it more this summer.