Research shows there are very real ramifications — physical and mental — to vacation phobia. One of several studies of vacation habits and heart disease, for instance, found that men who skipped their vacations for five years running were 30 percent more likely to suffer a heart attack than those who took at least a week off each year. Women who stepped away from work less than once every six years were almost eight times as likely to have heart problems.

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Having a healthy holiday life carries big benefits, among them, stress reduction, according to the American Psychological Association. A 2009 study by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh found that engaging in regular leisure activities like vacations led to lower blood pressure, thinner waistlines and an overall feeling of improved health among the nearly 1,400 subjects.

Other studies point to the improvements in people's relationships that regular holidays can bring. One, from Wisconsin, found that women who take at least two vacations a year were less likely to become tense or depressed and were more satisfied with their marriages.

See also: How to plan and take your vacation

Overcoming vacation phobia is not as difficult as it may seem, says Cait DeBaun, director of the USTA's Project: Time Off.

  • Planning is the first, and most important, step. Take a day early in the year to map out your R & R for the entire year, DeBaun suggests — and don't worry if you don't yet know what to do with the time away. Americans who plan in advance are more likely to use all of their vacation time, she says.
  • Make a bucket list. Next time you're thumbing through a National Geographic at the dentist's office and stumble across an amazing view or attraction, take a moment to tap out a quick note about it on your smartphone. Keeping a running list will give you a wealth of great vacation ideas to explore when you sit down for your next vacation planning session.
  • Squeeze in extra downtime one day at a time. Try tacking a day or two on to a business trip or taking a midweek break in your own town or city to, say, visit a museum or theme park.

DeBaun and others say it's time to ditch our work-martyr mentality and take a more holistic view of holidays, which are good across the board — for companies, for the economy, for families and for workers themselves.

Seize the week. You won't regret it.

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