Today is my first day back to work after a 4 week vacation.

This vacation was not what it was meant to be. My husband and I had planned to spend the 4 weeks in Arizona enjoying some R&R in the sun. Unfortunately, emergency surgery for a detached retina meant that we were unable to travel and instead spent the 4 weeks at home. In Winnipeg. In February and March.

Before you start feeling sorry for me, please know that the vacation wasn’t what I thought it would be, but it was exactly what I needed. Today, I’ve come back to my desk, my computer and my phone feeling refreshed and ready to resume work. I have never experienced this feeling of peace and optimism on a first day back after vacation. Normally, I’m stressed, anxious and overwhelmed as I tackle re-entry into home and business life.

The takeaway from this experience is that everyone needs to take real breaks now and then. We need to recognize that downtime is not an indulgence – it’s a necessity. Recharging batteries and reducing stress levels is important for good mental, spiritual and physical health.

Especially for those who work in the non-profit sector, it is difficult to remember that in order to be helpful to those people that our organizations serve or support, rest and recovery is needed now and then. Constant work with too few or too short breaks, leaves us tired and unable to do our best work. Lack of self-care renders even the most capable person less effective.

In order to get the recharge you need, take your allotted vacation time – all of it! I know many non-profit leaders who take a long weekend here and another there to use up their vacation time. Instead, carve out at least a 2 week stretch of time off so that you can really relax. One week is just not enough to feel the deep and fulfilling benefits of a real break. Vacation time is your organization’s investment in your good health. Take advantage of the investment without guilt; the payoff for you, your colleagues and your organization is immense.