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Take charge of mental health

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Posted: Friday, June 24, 2005 6:38 am | Updated: 8:32 am, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Today marks the first "International Day of Leisure," as proclaimed by writers Dean LaTourrette and Kristine Enea. The former marketing executive and software saleswoman, authors of "Time Off! The Upside to Downtime" (Leisure Team Productions, $17.95), say the book and the day are aimed at giving workers a break.

"When you see how the American workplace stacks up against other countries, the reality is pretty grim," LaTourrette says. "We’re the only industrialized nation that does not guarantee any vacation at all." Most European governments mandate between four and five weeks a year.

"Even China allows three weeks a year," he says.

But more American noses to the grindstone doesn’t necessarily mean higher productivity. "It actually costs employers money," Enea says. "We have a ton of stressrelated illnesses and injuries in both the United States and Canada. A Canadian study suggested that stress-related illnesses cost their government $4 billion a year."

The effects of long-term job stress don’t stop at the bottom line. "We’ve all heard the stories: ‘I missed my kid’s softball game’ or ‘I feel like I missed a couple of years with my family,’ " LaTourrette says. "But statistical studies point to the fact that overworking can also significantly shorten your life span."

The authors see the International Day of Leisure as a first step for the American workers to take charge of their own mental health. "It’s important that people change gears for a while," Enea says. "And that doesn’t mean work on your to-do list. Americans are very goal-oriented, so it’s important that they engage in something they enjoy that draws on skills they don’t use at work." Their suggestions at www.dayofleisure.com include rediscovering your surrounding at a more leisurely pace.

"Become a tourist in your own town," LaTourrette says. "What attractions do the tourists go to? Every community has wonderful low or no-cost events. Rediscover those things you pass by every day and never think of."

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