We’ve all been there: worked our socks off in the run-up to a holiday from work, only to spend the first half of our time out of the office struck down by flu. This is hardly a surprise – running on adrenalin to get projects and tasks completed on tight deadlines utilises a lot of energy and our bodies simply can’t keep up. Upon finally relaxing, our immune system is depleted and we finally ‘have time’ to be sick. Not an ideal state of events when that holiday should be a time to unwind and
We’ve all been there: worked our socks off in the run-up to a holiday from work, only to spend the first half of our time out of the office struck down by flu. This is hardly a surprise – running on adrenalin to get projects and tasks completed on tight deadlines utilises a lot of energy and our bodies simply can’t keep up. Upon finally relaxing, our immune system is depleted and we finally ‘have time’ to be sick. Not an ideal state of events when that holiday should be a time to unwind and replenish our energy stores.
Why do we get sick when we take a break from work?
Dutch psychologist Professor Ad Vingerhoets has termed this phenomenon ‘Leisure Sickness’ after noticing how regularly he became sick whilst on holiday and subsequently discovered he wasn’t the only to suffer this way. Whilst the later study he carried out only found a 3% rate of holiday sickness reported amongst people, for those 3% it’s a very real and frustrating experience. He noted that those more likely to suffer from leisure sickness are perfectionists with a high-workload who find it difficult to switch off. So, how to avoid it? We have a few suggestions:
Start preparing for your holiday a good month before it begins. Sit down and map out the top priorities which need to be completed in the next 4 weeks, both work and home. What can you make a start on now? Who can you ask for help? Having as clear a plan of what needs to be done in advance will help you to visualise those days off being free of worry. As they say: ‘Don’t put off till tomorrow what you can do today.’ This should help spread tasks over a realistic amount of time so you’re not run ragged in the days leading up to your time off.
Prioritise your health
It’s so tempting to grab something quick and unhealthy when you’re working late, promising yourself that you’ll eat healthily on holiday. But without all the vitamins your body needs you’re making it more likely an impending sickness will strike. Have healthy snacks ready nearby and invest in some vitamin tablets to replace anything you may be missing out on. Same goes for regular exercise: keep doing it! Yes, we know you’ve heard the advice a million times before, but it’s given for a reason.
Don’t forget to sleep
Sleep is essential to our minds and bodies. No matter how much work you need to get ticked off, getting a decent night’s sleep is the key to reducing stress, and it’s really the stress which lowers your ability to fight sickness. A good night’s sleep will help you tackle tasks in the office the next day too, improving your cognition and decision-making abilities.
Take a sick day NOW
If you can feel yourself coming down with something, take a sick day now. Often we just need one day to combat it early on, but by ignoring any symptoms your body is sharing with you, it’s more likely to come out eventually (because it will *always* manifest as sickness in the end), making you unwell for longer. You may feel uncomfortable taking a day out of work when you have so much on, but your boss will thank you for not spreading germs to colleagues. You’ll also be able to function better and get more done each day instead of half-heartedly trying to accomplish as much as your ‘well’ self.
We always have big plans for our time out of office. Whether it’s running every day along golden beaches, decluttering our homes to finally embrace minimalism or reading all those books to better ourselves, we do tend to set fairly lofty goals for those five weeks a year. Yet, putting pressure on ourselves to accomplish everything we don’t usually have time for is just setting ourselves up for disappointment when things don’t go to plan. Getting sick is your body’s way of telling you to take a step back and relax. So relax!
No more ifs or buts.