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Are you not using your annual leave because you're scared your employer will see you as unproductive? You could be damaging your health as well as your work performance.

Americans are taking less and less time off work — 40 years ago, they took an average of 20 days a year and today, it's just 16. Are you "married to your job", not taking the full number of days off you are entitled to, working from home when you shouldn't be, and even working seven days a week, for instance because you are self-employed?

If you're stuck on constant work-eat-sleep treadmill without taking the time to bond with those who matter to you most and just enjoy yourself and rest, numerous studies confirm that you are placing both your mental and physical health at risk. Conversely, people who take time off regularly are happier, more motivated, more productive, have higher morale, and are healthier. 

Time off is serious business. Don't neglect yours. 

The Health Benefits Of Taking Time Off Work

Work is, of course, the single biggest cause of stress for many people: pressure to perform, worries about a heavy workload, concerns over job instability and conflicts with co-workers and bosses all take their toll. When you're seriously stressed out, the most common bits of advice offered will include removing the cause of stress and taking time to care for yourself by resting and engaging in activities you enjoy. That's sound advice, and the answer is to take time off work. The American Psychological Association released a study confirming that taking time off work does a great deal to alleviate stress. 

Another study concluded that female workers who vacation less often than every two years aren't just more likely to report high stress levels, they're actually more likely to be clinically depressed too. Those who vacation every year, meanwhile, are less prone to stress and depression and also said they were both less tired and happier in their marriages. 

It's not just mental health that suffers when you don't take time off, either, but also your heart health.

Men who didn't take time off work several years were found, in yet another study, to have a 30 percent increased risk of a heart attack. Women apparently have eight times increased odds of developing coronary artery disease or suffering a heart attack if they don't take a vacation for six years, in comparison to women who take time off work at least twice a year. A separate and very large study of 12,000 men who were already at a high risk of coronary heart disease showed that those who took regular vacations saw their risk plummet. 

Is Our Workaholic Culture Destroying Our Families?

In a study of American children of working parents entitled The Work Martyr’s Children: How Kids Are Harmed by America’s Lost Week, a full 75 percent of kids reported that their parents bring work home, with nearly 86 percent saying that their parents' stress over work spilled into their home life. Our kids are pretty forgiving — 86 percent also said that they understood their parents' need to continue working from home. 

Being understanding when your work life intrudes on your family life doesn't mean your kids aren't disappointed, however, as 59 percent of surveyed kids said they felt disappointment when their parents prioritized their work over spending time with them. The same survey revealed that kids' stress levels go down with parents spend leisure time with them, and that the vast majority of all children would like their parents to be deeply involved in their lives. Yes, even the teens. 

Of course, most of us simply have to work, and that's not all bad for kids either — having two working parents tends to offer kids more material comforts, as well as the confidence that they themselves can succeed in the workplace one day. The key is to find the right work-life balance, and even taking one extra day off work can make a huge difference to your kids. Of the kids who took part in the survey, 58 percent could recall the last event that mattered to them that their parents missed.

If you can take a day or half-day off work the next time your kids have a birthday, dance recital, important sports match or school play on, do it. They'll remember that you were there for them.
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