Leisure sickness: why you fall ill on your holidays
Holidays at last! The time away from your workstation is supposed to be relaxing. But no sooner do you head off on holiday than your head begins to ache, your throat hurts, and your nose starts running. We explain why leisure sickness syndrome clocks in when you clock out.
It’s like a jinx – no sooner have your holidays started than your immune system decides to take time out too. Exhaustion, headaches, throat aches, muscle aches, coughs and sniffles spoil the downtime you'd planned to spend doing exciting things or relaxing. Experts call this “leisure sickness” syndrome, whereby people develop symptoms of sickness during their holidays. Why, of all times, do you feel unwell during your well-deserved holidays? And what can you do about it?
Too much stress at work
Those who’re constantly under pressure at work emit large quantities of the stress hormone noradrenaline. As a result, the body operates at full throttle and is permanently in "fight or flight" mode. In the short term, the release of stress hormones is beneficial because it can help to fend off illnesses thanks to their anti-inflammatory effect.
However, when the pressures of daily working life abate at weekends or during the holidays, the body's stress hormone levels also drop and the body’s entire hormone balance is out of kilter. Your immune system also takes time off and you’re more liable to fall ill. And you’d be mistaken for thinking that it’s only senior executives who suffer from "leisure sickness". According to a study by the clinical psychologist Ad Vingerhoets from 2002, “especially perfectionists with high workloads, a strong commitment, and an over-developed sense of responsibility to their work seem to form a high-risk group”.