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How Vacations Help the Business Brain

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VACATION

In exactly 12 days, I will be going away on a 10-day vacation. The thought of this impending time off from the daily in and out of work exhilarates me -- and worries me.

On the pro side is the anticipation of rest, renewal and relaxation. Weighing in on the negatives are preparing to go in the first place and a heavier workload when I return.

"We skip vacations because we worry that the person next to us will get ahead while we're gone," says Don Joseph Goewey, author of Mystic Cool: A proven approach to transcend stress, achieve optimal brain function, and maximize your creative intelligence. "Or we're afraid that the work piling up on our desk will put us so far behind that we'll never catch up."

As it turns out, however, not going on vacation might be bad for our brains.

"Research shows that constantly being under pressure floods our brain with stress hormones, which then erode the higher brain function we need to sustain peak performance," says Goewey. "The opposite is also true. Activity in the hippocampus and neocortex centers of the brain (the place where everything we think of as intelligence is generated) increases during periods of wakeful rest, such as breaks during the day, time off during the week or a vacation during the year."

Goewey says that the reward for the time you invest in a vacation is a brain humming with the creative intelligence, common sense and physical energy that will sustain you at the top of your game.

David Allen, best-selling author of Making It All Work: Winning at the Game of Work and the Business of Life, is a strong proponent of the power of taking vacations as well.

"I think productivity is always enhanced when you have the chance to evaluate your life and work from multiple horizons," says Allen. "Vacations help you from getting too far down in the weeds and provide an opportunity to refresh and restore."

But despite all expert advice and scientific evidence, a recent survey by the American Express OPEN Small Business Vacation Monitor showed that less than half (46 percent) of small business owners plan to take a vacation this summer -- down from a high of 67 percent in 2006 -- and 37 percent list a busy work schedule as the culprit. And even for those who do plan on diving in and taking a few days off, 68 percent say they will stay connected to work and check in while on vacation.

So this summer, give your brain a break, go forth and vacate. Build up your brain's higher function, get a perspective on your life, reinvent your career, play some golf, eat an ice cream cone and hike with the kids. It will be good for your well being and, ultimately, your wallet.

Be sure to check back next week when I will be doing the second post in this series on taking a vacation with a focus on tips to prepare for, and return from, a vacation with ease.

Do you plan on taking a vacation any time soon? I'd would love to hear your comments.

This article originally appeared at Xero.com, online accounting software for small business.

Karen Leland is a freelance journalist, best-selling author and president of Sterling Marketing Group where she helps businesses negotiate the wired world of today's media landscape -- social and otherwise. For questions or comments, please contact her at kleland@scgtraining.com.