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Vacation, Shmacation: Why Don’t We Take Time Off?

Apparently, the Brits think we Americans have a national vacation problem.

A recent article in the Guardian testifies to this, questioning why so many Americans fail to take all—or any—of their vacation days each year, working significantly more days than their counterparts in other countries.

This summer, the BBC reported that 40 percent of American workers choose not to take their full allotment of vacation days. That’s nearly half of us!

When the Guardian asked people on Facebook why that was the case, some answered proudly that we Americans are simply extra-hard workers. But others indicated that our fear-of-being-seen-as-a-slacker culture keeps us working even when we wish we weren’t.

Regardless of whether you view your hours working with pride or resentment, this topic is worth a conversation as the vacation season is over and the holiday season approaches. Because if so many of us are living to work, more or less, we need to think about whether it’s worth it.

We Urban Mattress people care a lot about our work. But we also care about living well and to us, that doesn’t involve working oneself to the bone. We think it’s good to take stock once in a while and ask, “For what are we working?” Relationships, joy, meaning, purpose…

Certainly there’s a tension among those of us who wish to live purposefully. Because work provides purpose, but it shouldn’t be the only thing we live for. And if there’s no payoff outside of work, nothing other than a sense of general contribution to society from all of those working hours, chances are we’ll start to resent work.

Recent research seems to back up the idea that too much work is counterproductive.

A 2014 study by researchers at San Francisco State University found that people with creative hobbies outside of work actually did better on the job.

And another recent study of professional football players, interestingly, found that those with interests and pursuits outside of their career engaged and played better on the field.

We think it makes sense. As the old adage goes, “All work and no play make Jack a dull boy.”

Of course this varies by individual. Some of us enjoy find more meaning in work than others, and some of us need more “me-time.” There’s no right or wrong on this, but each of us should know what life well lived looks like for ourselves.

Remember that book about the regrets of the dying, written by a hospice nurse? She said the No. 1 regret of dying people was “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.” So don’t work your life away just to prove something.

The No. 2 regret? “I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.”

Americans are denying ourselves rest and relaxation because we feel driven to accomplish, guilty or trapped into a certain lifestyle…none of which is a particularly good reason in the grand scheme of things.

Perhaps its time we gave ourselves time and space enough that we can tune in and understand better what we need alongside work to live life to the fullest…

And that might just mean taking some freakin’ vacation time, people.

Sleep Tight, Urbanites!