Does your brain need a holiday too?

7 Dec, 2016

We all crave time off, but did you know your brain does too? Research shows 80% of employees consistently feel stressed on the job and a holiday can be a quick, effective solution. Although we think it’s enough to take ourselves on holiday physically, in order to reap the true benefits of down-time, we have to make a concerted effort to also switch off mentally. Giving yourself a break improves productivity and health – both mind and body need to clock-off now and again, here’s why:

Renew brain health
By constantly living under pressure to problem-solve and plan, we diminish our ability to think creatively and strategically tackle complex problems. Our brain operates more clearly when not rushing from one obligation to the next. It’s thought the best ideas are conceptualised when the mind is left to freely imagine and wander.

Reduce stress
Holidays are important because our bodies and brains aren’t equipped to maintain constant levels of stress. When you’re under chronic stress, your body releases the stress hormone, cortisol. High levels of cortisol damage the hippocampus (the area of the brain responsible for learning and memory). Reducing stress is key to maximising brain performance. This can be achieved by exercising, increasing hours of sleep, spending time with others and new adventures – all more likely to happen while on holiday.

Disconnect from technology
Our minds need a break from electronic devices. So-called multitasking – responding to a text message while sitting in a meeting – doesn’t make us more productive, it slows down thinking and output. The human brain isn’t wired to perform two tasks at once. Forcing ourselves to switch between tasks fatigues the frontal lobe, slowing its efficiency and performance. Too much time online can even lead to feelings of anxiety and depression. Even on holiday, keep devices at bay.

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A holiday bucket list
As much as you need to take things easy while on holiday, the brain is an organ and needs exercise – so engage in activities to stimulate yourself intellectually (other than work). Visit a museum, learn a new language or solve a crossword puzzle.

Take the opportunity to read the books you’ve neglected – reading keeps the mind active in the healthiest possible way. Make it a point not to sit in front of your computer or TV all day. Get outside – enjoy fresh air, clear your mind and get the adrenaline pumping. Immersing yourself in nature is a great way to avoid brain drain.

So do your brain and yourself a favour this holiday: take a vacation and rest both body and mind. You’ll return to work reinvigorated and calm. And your brain will be tuned-up and ready to creatively tackle challenging problems with perspective and energy.