Curing the summertime blues

Senior Correspondent Mike Causey is on vacation. While he’s away, he’s invited guest columnists to fill in. 

Summer has often been a popular time to take a vacation. For families with school-age kids, it means a break in the schedule, freeing up time to pack up the station wagon or camper and hitting the road to see some of the country.

When I was growing up in the Midwest, my parents took the family to places like the Great Smoky Mountains and Niagara Falls. Ah, good times. I don’t necessarily remember that much, but I remember that as long as we stayed in a hotel that had a pool, I was thrilled with anywhere we went.

For anyone in the northern USA, summer means the weather is generally good enough that you can reasonably expect your flight to get off the ground without fear of a snow cancellation.

During tough economic times, many people opt for “staycations,” backyard barbecues or visits to local attractions, whatever those might be. For example, there’s the American Museum of the Housecat, near Dillsboro, North Carolina, where you can learn and see memorabilia on your favorite social media video stars. Or perhaps Circus World, in the beautiful Wisconsin Dells, might be more to your liking (probably not for coulrophobia sufferers).

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Wherever you live, you can almost certainly find a museum or festival or something nearby to help you get away, without having to actually travel too far.

For federal employees, paid leave has been a really great benefit, and so many of us are lucky enough to be able to take some time off (assuming we don’t need our leave for other things like illness or taking care of family members). There has been talk about changes (read: cuts) to federal employee benefits for longer than I’ve been a federal employee and recent budget proposals are certainly no exception.

Cuts to retirement, health care, pay — all have been proposed and some already enacted. This can all make people uneasy about taking time off. Staffing losses mean more work for everyone still on the job. Some people are afraid they will appear to lack dedication, and that this could make them a target if forced cuts have to be made.

But as long as we have the benefit of paid leave, and our personal situation allows it, it’s a good thing to remember the advantages of taking time off — whether you’re planning an elaborate visit somewhere or just hitting the local beach (if you’re fortunate enough to be near one). You may have seen studies showing that only about half of US employees with leave ever use all of what they have earned. And more than half of those who do take time off admit to working during at least some of that time.

If your boss ever questions why an employee would take time off, remind them that time off for relaxation actually improves productivity. Taking a break from the regular routine and work schedule improves creativity and can help stimulate problem-solving ability.

When you’re not narrowly focused directly on job-related tasks, your mental energy is freed up to explore novel approaches that can lead to new insight and a breakthrough on an intractable work issue.

According to a March 2016 article in Forbes magazine, the workplace benefits of employee vacations include greater employee productivity and retention, improved morale and significant employee health benefits (and with the ever increasing costs of health care, who doesn’t want healthier employees?).

Taking time off is good for you, mentally and physically.

Here are just a few specific reasons to be scheduling some leave:

  1.  Stress reduction
  2. Prevention of heart disease
  3. Better sleep
  4. Improved worker productivity.

Sometimes, being a good employee means saying, “enough is enough, I need to take some time off.”

For all those workaholics out there wondering, “what would I do with myself if I wasn’t working?” I have a suggestion. A lot of them, in fact. One of my favorite ways to vacation involves a visit to one of America’s best and most beautiful ideas — our National Parks.

If you’re lucky enough to live near one of them, take advantage and visit often. If you’re not close to a national park, look for your state’s parks, which are also great places for recreation. Remember the words from one of our wisest naturalists:

Keep close to Nature’s heart… and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.” – John Muir

Whatever your summer plans, have fun and be safe. Your future self will thank you!

—Nancy Crosby

Nearly Useless Factoid

By Jory Heckman

On April 18, 1930, a BBC anchor had no news to report, and filled the rest of the 15-minute newscast with piano music.

Source: BBC