If I offered you a week of paid vacation, would you take it?

If I offered you hundreds of dollars of cash, no strings attached, would you thank me and run the other direction?

If you are like me, you are screaming, “hell, yes!” to both of those questions.

However, the truth is that while almost three quarters of Americans get paid vacation time, over half leave 7 days or more unused every year, essentially, kissing away the cash. Texans and other southerners are less likely to take a trip than our northern counterparts and Generation X (that’s me!) are the least likely of any other age-cohort to embrace fun in the sun!

While handing over money to employers is unsettling, the bigger tragedy is the loss of quality time with loved ones.

So, why are many of you burning the candle at both ends and passing up a chance to slow down and be present with your family?

The reality is that we live in a world that is moving too fast. There is barely time to get home for dinner, never mind enjoy a week with nothing to do but tickle-time.

Americans cite “fear” as the main reason for not taking their allotted time off.

Fear that others will be left to pick up the slack, leaving work relationships strained. We wear the reputation of ‘workaholic’ with a sick pride and we fear that others will think we are lazy if we spent too much time at home.

Fear that there will be too much to do when we return. If you have ever turned off your phone for a day, you will know what it is like to be overwhelmed by unread messages in your inbox. There is no rest when the number in the little red bubble is creeping up with each passing moment.

Fear that we will need our banked time if something terrible happens. We live in a world that has us believe the next disaster is right around the corner.

Fear that we will need the extra payout to augment our retirement fund that is not growing fast enough in this dismal economy.

Fear that others won’t be able to cope when we are gone or perhaps a hidden fear that others will do our job better than we do. Presently, job security is scarce for Americans and being visible at work provides a sense of safety, real or imagined.

With stress linked to almost every chronic health condition including weight gain, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, heart disease and cancer, isn’t it time you slowed down? Your life may depend on it!

Time is a waning resource, don’t squander it.

This summer it is time to hit the pause button on your life. Find a way to look ahead and schedule a vacation. A real vacation. The type of vacation that allows your mind to turn off, your body to rest and your family to know you again. Get out of the office and into a state of calm. Leave your work on your desk, turn off your devices, handover to your colleagues and don’t look back.

Disappear from work for an entire week.

Research proves that taking time to enjoy life opens up the creative process. It reduces the fight or flight response that wrecks havoc on every organ in the body. Areas of your brain that have been shut down and functioning in survival-mode are uncluttered and new perspective emerges. New solutions to old problems appear out of thin air and the heaviness of life is lifted. You will return to work renewed, refreshed and ready to conquer your projects with energy and enthusiasm you forgot you had!

Summer is a perfect season to schedule time off but if you can’t make it happen before the kids head back to school there is good news; you have another 6 months to solidify a vacation on your calendar before Christmas.

Do it for you. Do it for your family.  Most of all do it for the rest of us to cultivate a new culture in the workplace that prioritizes time away. Open the door to develop an atmosphere that deeply values bonded family relationships.

Instead of complaining about how exhausted and disconnected you are, it’s time to take back what is rightfully yours and share it with the people you love.

Take back your time.

Reference: Bankrate’s Money Pulse Survey. Dec 8-11, 2016; http://www.bankrate.com/finance/consumer-index/money-pulse-1216.aspx (accessed May 25, 2017)