This is how forgoing vacation time can derail your career

Mindy Lahiri, fictional character on NBC's "The Mindy Project," is a young professional struggling with a variety of money, work and personal problems.
2016 NBCUniversal Media

With summer fast approaching, vacation will soon be top of mind for many professionals. Do you ask your boss for time off? Do you use your vacation days?

The answer should be a no-brainer. But you'd be surprised. Many Americans lucky enough to have paid time off are forgoing valuable vacation days to spend more time at the office, a national Bankrate survey of 1,000 employees showed.

In 2016, some 52 percent of Americans said they wouldn't be using all of their paid time off. They're often leaving seven days or more on the table, especially in regions like the South and the Midwest.

Sometimes, professionals forgo vacation days for fear of appearing uncommitted to their jobs.

"I often meet with people in my private practice that are experiencing burnout," psychologist Patricia Turner writes on her website, "but that cannot give themselves permission to take a vacation from their job to rest."

A survey of more than 5,000 workers conducted by U.S. Travel Association in 2015 found that 28 percent of workers did not take vacation because they were afraid of being seen as a slacker or wanted to prove their dedication. Younger professionals skip out on taking time off for fear of not being considered for a promotion.

But if you're putting off vacation because you think your boss will think you're lazy, beware: Failing to take time off can actually have a negative impact on your career.

Numerous studies have found that the stress of being overworked leads to all sorts of health issues, such as insomnia, depression, diabetes, heavy drinking and reduced cognitive function.

"Without taking time to recharge, employees can find themselves stressed, overworked and sick — all of which have a direct impact on their work performance," says Sarah Berger, personal finance expert at

Health conditions such as depression or a chronic lack of sleep can hurt a professional's ability to concentrate, think creatively and execute tasks.

The benefits of taking time off

Cancun, Mexico
Cindy Perman | CNBC

Taking a vacation can help you feel more relaxed at work and happier in general.

A study published in the Journal of Psychology and Health followed 87 blue-collar employees. Those who took time off saw a marked decline in feeling overworked or nearing burnout.

"A respite from work diminishes levels of strain," the authors write.

Other studies show that these effects last up to a month after taking a break.

If you can't, and would still like a way to de-stress in your off-hours, consider taking up a hobby. Warren Buffett plays the ukulele, and science says that has probably helped him make smart financial decisions. If you're even shorter on time, practice this two-minute exercise a Harvard-trained psychologist says decreases stress levels.

Either way, remember that showing up to work for 52 weeks in a year isn't a long-term strategy for success.

Check out research-backed advice to help you fall asleep when you're mind is racing about work

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