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America's Vacation Deficit Disorder

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The warning signs are all there.

They are on exhibit for all to see in our national levels of: anxiety and depression, obesity and heart attacks, absenteeism and job burnout, sleep deprivation and the use of chemicals to help keep us awake.

The $64,000 question is: What would you do if you saw someone you cared for continually behaving in an unhealthy and destructive manner? Would you try to help them? Perhaps caringly intervene on their behalf? Try to maybe prod them into making some better lifestyle choices?

Now, what would you do if you knew a whole group of people were increasingly behaving in an unhealthy and destructive manner; one that not only affected their own personal health and happiness, their relationships and family life, but the whole community's productivity and well-being? Would you try to help them?

It is my strong belief, as well as the collective sentiment of many medical professionals, family counselors, clinical psychiatrists and cultural scholars alike, that America is in need of an immediate intervention.

We need an intervention to help us break the destructive treadmill-like cycle we are in of denial and continued harmful behavior. We as a nation need help in confronting a serious problem on our parts. A problem, that many who care about our nation like me, have described as a national crisis that I have labeled America's Vacation Deficit Disorder.

America's Vacation Deficit Disorder derives out of a type of collective manic obsessive-compulsive disorder. One that has most Americans working longer and longer hours without the healthy physical and psychological benefits connected with taking time off (as in taking vacations) from their hyper-paced 21st century 24/7 electronic work leash.

Despite study after study unanimously showing that taking time off would allow us to better fully recharge our batteries, rejuvenate our mind and body, revitalize our workplace enthusiasm and increase our productivity too!

We simply are not taking enough time away from work. Our work-to-leisure lifestyle balance is seriously out of whack -- and growing more distorted annually.

If historic experience and farmer wisdom mean anything, we know that fields need to be allowed to go fallow every few seasons in order to remain healthy and productive. Not only are those rested fields easier to sow, but the crops return even more productive. Productive fields can be overworked as any experienced farmer knows.

In Japan, they labeled this phenomenon karōshi, death from overwork. In America, we can witness the growing incidences of job dissatisfaction, occupational stress, absenteeism, defensive overworking, depression, workers compensation claims, job burnout and the breakdown of the family that fully, and unfortunately, articulate the symptoms of America's Vacation Deficit Disorder.

The warning signs are all there.

The end of May used to mark the unofficial start of vacation season in America that would begin and end on long weekends: Memorial and Labor Day weekends. Three glorious months worth of long weekends, road trips and family bliss. A time to relax, recharge and reconnect with the family and loved ones.

Nowadays, Memorial Day weekend signals the beginning of the national lament appearing on websites, newscasts and in newspaper editorials everywhere: What has happened to that great American tradition of vacations?

Like many things in the United States, they regrettably are in decline.

Most Americans take great pride in their work -- and they should. Most Americans derive great happiness from their jobs -- and that is a good thing too. Clearly, we remain an innovative, creative and productive workforce. We are a nation of universally recognized hard workers, with a long history of great accomplishments and achievements. Yet, the facts today display a rather ominous and disturbing picture of the average worker's life in America:

  • We are working longer hours than ever before;
  • We are working more than ever before;
  • We are taking our work home with us more than ever before;
  • We have less time off than ever before;
  • We are spending less time with our families than ever before;
  • Workplace insecurity is higher than ever before;
  • Job-turnover is higher than ever before;
  • We are sleeping less than ever before;
  • Caffeine and energy drink consumption are on the rise ... along with cocaine and methamphetamines;
  • Anti-depressant prescriptions are on the rise;
  • Sleeping pill prescriptions continue to grow more than ever;
  • Workplace-related disabilities are higher than ever before;
  • Our nation's collective health is in decline with our life expectancy officially stagnant;
  • Our allocated paid vacation time off is declining more than ever before;
  • Our actual vacation time taken is diminishing more than ever before;
  • Our nation's collective mental well-being is obviously suffering.

People smarter than I have started asking aloud if there are any connections between these seemingly unrelated facts? After researching them all for my new book my answer is an unrestrained, sincere and wholehearted: Yes there are!

The United States has accurately been labeled the No-Vacation Nation. And the subsequent personal, economic and health costs, along with the associated spillover, or collateral damage, to America's well-being are all adding up fast. It costs our economy billions in unproductive time, energy and medical bills. We are obviously in the midst of a national crisis and in grave need of an urgent intervention.

We need a wake up call. A sort of intervention that will help our nation move forward by sounding a very real warning alarm about our national crisis.

To be sure, we seem to have a national blind spot about the whole dreadfully real issue in and of itself. And, as a result, we don't even know how truly bad off we really are. As a nation we are marching straight into an abyss, with too many of us to count, already members of the walking wounded.

Next I will discuss Our Incredible Shrinking Vacation, but for now, let the debate begin about America's Vacation Deficit Disorder!