Lose the guilt. Take the vacation. It’s good for you.

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Dear Reader,

There are a lot of reasons not to take a vacation, and they’re all wrong.
But you’re not alone if you skimp on vacation.  Uncle Sam estimates that Americans failed to use 658 million vacation days last year. They outright forfeited 222 million vacation days because they couldn’t roll them over and couldn’t get them paid out in other ways. That’s one crazy donation to the boss, right?

Herewith, a newsletter about why it’s good to take a vacation, and how to do it right.

Summer vacations really are good for you

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Here’s the surprising part of our reluctance to take the vaycay: It’s not about fear of job loss. Americans grind away in good times and bad because, experts say, they persuade themselves that only they can do their job, they’ll be so slammed on their return that it’s not worth going away, or that they can’t afford vacations (even though many get paid time off).

Workaholics please note: Research is piling up that shows there are bona fide health benefits from time off. Vacations boost youroverall health and well-being, reduce your stress, improve your state of mind, build your resilience, allow you to reconnect with friends and family, and can even be good for your heart. They may also help you be more productive when you return.

Tell yourself you’re truly valued at the office, but get some perspective: if you’re really as good as you think you are, you know to set stuff up so you won’t be missed and so you won’t be drowning in work when you get back. So get out the calendar, block out a time, and do it.

Nurturing your mind on vacation

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While you’re away, break your routines, and concentrate on experiences (not purchases) that you and yours really want, enjoy, and find meaningful. One start: Unhook your remote connections to the office.

(But while you’re furtively catching up late at night with your smart phone or tablet, it might be good to re-program the thing to turn off its blue-cast screen light at night, in favor of rays more conducive to sleep−read here for Apple and here for Android).

It may take some cajoling, but unhook the kids from their electronics, too: They clearly benefit from real exercise and outdoor play that builds their bodies−and minds.

Besides playing hard, a great summer change-up for many is the chance to read for pleasure. Culled from various best-seller lists and other sources, here are some health-related books for your beach tote or e-tablet:

  • When Breath becomes Air. By Paul Kalanithi. “A memoir by a physician who received a diagnosis of Stage IV lung cancer at the age of 36.” Random House.
  • The Gene: An Intimate History. “This overview of the history and science of genetics also considers moral questions and prospects for future advances in treating disease. By Siddhar’tha Mukherjee. Scribner.
  • Being Mortal. By Atul Gawande. “The surgeon and New Yorker writer considers how doctors fail patients at the end of life and how they can do better.” Metropolitan/Holt
  • One in a Billion. The Story of Nic Volker and the Dawn of Genomic Medicine. By Mark Johnson and Kathleen Gallagher. “The breathtaking story of a young boy with a never-before-seen disease, and the doctors who take a bold step into the future of medicine to save him—based on the authors’ Pulitzer Prize–winning reporting.” Simon & Schuster.
  • Switched On. A Memoir of Brain Change and Emotional Awakening. By John Elder Robison. “An extraordinary memoir about the brain therapy that dramatically changed the life and mind of John Elder Robison, the New York Times bestselling author of Look Me in the Eye.” Spiegel & Grau.
  • Lab Girl. By Hope Jahren. “An illuminating debut memoir of a woman in science; a moving portrait of a longtime friendship; and a stunningly fresh look at plants that will forever change how you see the natural world.” Knopf.
  • Capture: Unraveling the Mystery of Mental Suffering. By David A. Kessler. “The former commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, considers how substances such as food, alcohol and tobacco can hijack our brain chemistry and compel us to act against our own best intentions.” Harper Wave.

Don’t let the kids fall prey to television, on-screen games and other digital amusements. Losses they may suffer in the summer in knowledge and skills can accumulate over the course of their academic career, and can be problematic, especially for poorer kids. Here are some tips to avert youngsters’ academic “summer slide.”


Show this to your boss: Summer vacations really are good for you

Nurturing your mind on vacation

Be sun-smart, heat-healthy

Stay water wise


$223 billion

Estimated loss to U.S. economy when Americans annually don’t take vacations and spend on restaurants, hotels, travel, and home improvement projects.


Percentage that men who skipped vacations for several years were more likely to suffer heart attacks.

1 in 5

Number of drowning fatalities that involve children age 14 and younger. For every child who dies from drowning, another five receive emergency departmentcare for nonfatal submersion injuries

Be sun-smart and heat-healthy

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Just a reminder that the best parts of the season−the sun and heat−can pose their own healthrisks.

Sunburn’s no fun, and there’s no reason to age and damage the skin even more by vanity tanning and other excessive exposure to the sun. The American Cancer Society estimates that 76,380 new melanomas – the worst kind of skin cancer — will be diagnosed  this year (about 46,870 in men and 29,510 in women); roughly 10,000 people are expected to die of melanoma (about 6,750 men and 3,380 women). Melanoma rates have been rising for the last 30 years.

Here’s a timely, brief look at how to use sunscreens. Kids need even more safeguarding from the sun’s harms, and here’s some information on how best to do so. There’s more information here, too.

If you’re a blond, red head, freckled, or fair-complexioned, and you worry a lot about safe exposure to the sun, you also might want to learn about the ABCDE way to look at changes in the skin for melanoma changes, and when to consult a medical expert about them. Here’s also a link to expert guidance on how to conduct regular self-exams for skin cancer.

Meantime, heat stroke is a persistent worry when we’re active and outdoors, as the summer starts to scorch. Several hundred Americans die annually from exposure to excessive natural heat. The young and old are especially susceptible.

I’ve written before about the dangers thatsummer swelter can pose to those very active in it outdoors, especially young athletes. During peak temperatures, play it smart and stay indoors in the air conditioning, or at least park in the shade. Dress appropriately, and drink lots and lots of liquids to stay hydrated.

If you’ve got elderly loved ones or friends, check in on them if temperatures soar. It’s negligent beyond the pale and just plain stupid, of course, to leave children or pets in hot vehicles for any amount of time in the summer sun.

Stay water-wise

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Many of us will revel in the pleasures of parking ourselves near pools, lakes, or oceans. Still, vigilance is needed here by parents and other adults: More than 3,500 Americans drown each year.

Youngsters can learn to swim and to pick up appropriate drown-proofing skills early. Don’t presume because it is “just” a backyard pool that it can’t be dangerous; kids can get in trouble quickly, and poor design or maintenance can turn equipment like drain pumps into real hazards.

In the ocean, recreational swimmers also may be unaware when those very nearby are in distress and need help: Cartoons have created a false popular view about how people react when they’re starting to drown. The reality differs sharply.

Pop culture also may make it impossible, too, for many of us to be ocean-side without hearing in our heads the John Williams score to the Steven Spielberg movie, Jaws. Vacationers will need to be farther south to get into zones where shark attacks are more common─and, statistically speaking, such incidences are freakish: by some estimates, 200 million visitors hit U.S. beaches and there are about three dozen shark attacks annually.

The more common aquatic encounter for many will be jellyfish, not sharks. They can sting, and, for heaven’s sake, some common treatments can help─don’t rely on the wive’s tale remedy of urinating on the injury. If you experience a severe allergic reaction, seek medical help.


Patrick Malone
Patrick Malone & Associates