If you´re one of those people who is generally healthy throughout the year but somehow always gets sick every time you go on holiday or at the weekend – it seems that you’re not alone and could be suffering from a condition known as “leisure sickness”.
This term was first coined by Dutch psychologist Ad Vingerhoets, whose research showed that those who had a stressful job or an ultra-busy life spent running around after others and found it hard to disconnect, were more likely to be afflicted.
Symptoms typically include headaches, migraines, fatigue and aching muscles, culminating in cold and flu-like symptoms in the worst-case scenarios, which end up ruining the whole point of taking a break in the first place!
There is a biological explanation apparently, since when we are under pressure our immune systems are stimulated and our bodies know that we can’t succumb to sickness – but when we go on holiday and relax, the immune system takes its own holiday and tells the body it’s OK to get sick!
This highlights the importance of taking time out on a more regular basis – we can all find 20 minutes in our day, however busy we are, to give our bodies and minds a much needed fuel-stop and rest.
If this resonates with you – here are some tips to stay on top of crashing down with leisure sickness this summer:
Be kind to yourself! Make a special point of setting aside at least 20 minutes a day to go into a quiet room, without your ever-present mobile or tablet and sit or lie down and take a power nap. The good news is that if you’re a high achiever and tend to push yourself to the limit, you’re also a highly disciplined person – so you can easily make it part of your daily routine and you will soon reap the benefits. Your mind will be clearer, your thoughts calmer and you will get so much more done!
Connect with nature – you may be physically fit and regularly go to the gym for a workout or a punishing run or cycle – but the key words here are “gentle stroll” and “nature”. People who regularly spend time in the great outdoors are generally more chilled and cheerful and research has shown that being at one with nature has a real positive impact on our outlook and boosts increased productivity as well as our immune system. Even 20 minutes sitting in your garden alone if you have one, or a walk in a park at lunchtime can make all the difference to your stress levels.
Sing! Whether it’s in the shower, in the car or even better join a choir ! Studies show that singing releases the “feel-good”endorphin hormone in our bodies and also oxytocin which alleviates stress and anxiety. Those who sing regularly have lower levels of cortisol, a hormone which regulates our body’s metabolism and the immune response.
Alternative mindfulness and relaxation therapies – if meditation groups and yoga are not for you, there are various simple techniques you can use in your own time to bring you back into a place of instant calm which I use to great effect with my clients and on myself! As with any exercise, these easy, gentle, mind, body and spirit calming tools, require regular practice for them to work – the secret is to explore the many options and find the ones that works best for you. This means that at any time of the day when you notice that your stress levels are rising, or your energy is flagging, you can use them – even while waiting in a queue, when you go to bed or even in the loo!
There’s an ancient Chinese proverb that says “Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are.” If you can embrace this and stop feeling guilty about taking some time out (for some reason our western society has made it an indulgent “sin” to do so) you will transform your life!
Instead of a sudden break from your hectic pace of daily life which might bring on a bout of “leisure sickness”, a steady drip-feed of daily relaxation and going deep within yourself will improve your relationships, your productivity, your health and general well-being and best of all – you will finally be able to make the most of your weekends and holidays and join in the fun!
Wishing you a joyful, peaceful and healthy summer.