Don’t Be A Work Martyr – Take That Vacation
Millions of Americans don’t take all their vacation days each year. According to Project Timeoff, greater than half of US employees leave unused vacation days (54%). The average worker takes about 16.8 days off a year, leaving an aggregate of 662 million unused days in 2016. That’s a lot of time off.
The reason people don’t use their vacation days? Fear. Fear of job security. Fear of a mountain of work when they get back. Fear that no one can do their job as well as they can.
For physicians, the results are mixed. According to a Medscape survey, a third of primary care physicians take no more than two weeks off a year. Specialists tended to take more time off.
What does that say about our culture of work? Out of 52 weeks a year, we only take two to three weeks to spend time with loved ones and do the things we enjoy?
Physicians have relative good job security. But the work intensity can be punishing, and over time, the sustained stress and anxiety inevitably erodes their health and their relationships. The tyranny of perfection also plays a major role in causing stress. None of this is good for your health. Prolonged anxiety can lead to burnout, depression, and even suicide. While researching for this post, I was shocked at the statistics on physician suicide. Physicians are more than twice as likely to kill themselves than non-physicians. And some 300-400 physicians commit suicide each year. That’s equivalent of losing two to three full classes of medical students each year! Young physicians are the most vulnerable. According to one study, greater than 20% of fourth year medical students and interns reported symptoms of major depression and 6% reported suicidal ideation in the last two weeks.
Here is why we need to take time off.
We owe it to ourselves. We are not robots or machines. We require periodic rest to recharge so we can be our best selves for our family and patients. We need time off to nurture our health and alleviate anxiety. I know a couple of physicians who work non-stop in their solo practice and make insane income. But their lives are totally out of whack. One looks like a ghost because he neglects his health. Another constantly fights with his wife because he is never available. There is a complete lack of balance in their lives. Don’t let money and work consume you.
We owe it to our family. Our spouse and children need to see us as functioning human beings, not stressed out freaks, rushing day in and day out, trying to finish our never-ending to-do list. Vacations force us to slow down and catch our breaths so we can reconnect with our family. We need to invest the time to engage our spouse and bond with our kids. Not only is this the right thing to do, but it pays dividends in the form of fond memories and secure relationships. An empty love tank breeds resentment and bitterness. On my recent vacation over New Years, my family spent eight contiguous days together. That’s some 192 hours spent in each other’s presence. We ate every meal together and did every activity together. That just doesn’t happen in the day-to-day home life.
The practice will survive without us. The work will still be there when we get back. Patients will still need us. Have faith in our colleagues that they will do a good job covering us and taking care of our patients. A happier and healthier physician is a value-add to his or her practice.
I was reminded of a quote from a famous Georgia Tech commencement speech given by Bryan Dyson, former CEO of Coca-Cola.
Imagine life as a game in which you are juggling some five balls in the air. You name them – work, family, health, friends, and spirit – and you’re keeping all of these in the air. You will soon understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. But the other four balls – family, health, friends, and spirit – are made of glass. If you drop one of these, they will be irrevocably scuffed, marked, nicked, damaged, or even shattered. They will never be the same. You must understand that and strive for balance in your life.
The takeaway? Work can wait. Take that vacation. You deserve it.
There are so many great posts in the blogosphere. These are my recent favorites.
Pamela Wible posts one of the most moving articles I’ve read about physician suicide. How does someone get to that point of desperation and how we can prevent more suicides. The Most Honest Obituary.
Coach Carson writes about what really matters in life. Is it time, flexibility, relationships, growth? Here’s To Doing What Matters – A Manifesto.
The Wall Street Physician put out some great posts this month. Physician Retirement Age: When is the Right Time to Retire? and How the Tax Bill Will Affect Medical Residents.
And an inspiring doctor story guest post at the White Coat Investor. My Journey: A Wealth of Opportunity.
And regarding commercial real estate, keep an eye on the industrial sector. – Here is Colliers chief economist’s 2018 outlook report. New Life for an Aging Economic Expansion.
Well, that’s it for now. Please follow me on Twitter.
Invest in Life