What is leisure sickness?


With the news of the nation’s debt problems, work continuing to pile up at the office, the children or mother-in-law frustrating us, thereby increasing stress levels, and other facets of the daily routine
that make us yearn for an escape, vacations should be thought of as a good thing, right?

It turns out that vacations can actually lead to nothing more than a temporary sugar rush that only leads us back to the daily grind without much lingering effect.

Jeroen Nawijn of NHTV Breda University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands found a holiday happiness curve: Our mood tends to be lowest through the first 10 percent of a holiday and quite high during the “core phase,” which spans about 70 percent of the vacation time. Our spirits soar on the day before going home.

“The first few days of a holiday trip appear to be particularly unpleasant, even dangerous,” says Nawijn. It is then that we are most likely to fall victim to travelers’ diarrhea (“Montezuma’s revenge,” “Ganges gurgles,” etc.) and even, for the most unlucky, heart problems.

Clearly, getting diarrhea from drinking water in Mexico would make anyone’s vacation miserable, but the research isn’t telling us about cultural or climate changes that cause the problems, but rather a “leisure sickness” which is a condition that develops during weekends or on vacations even though people are
fine at work. Ad Vingerhoets, a quality-of-life expert at Tilburg University in the Netherlands believes
leisure sickness — the inability to relax and adapt to the pace of life outside work — to be more prevalent in people living in big cities. Those affected suffer from headaches, muscular pains, nausea and flulike symptoms just when their free time begins, whether it’s a weekend or holiday.

“I feel that there is a strong connection with workaholism. Men and women with responsible positions in
management and much work pressure may suffer from this condition,” he said.

Other research has pointed to the short-term effects of the relaxation—just a week or two later and the benefits of the vacation have faded away.

An article in the Washington Post relates the study of the Dutch holidaymakers who were less tense and more energized during their trip; those benefits had all but vanished within the first week of everyday life.

Unfortunately, people may think of how great they felt during the vacation and then it makes their normal
routine seem less appealing.  

The Post article offers a few tips to enrich our time off and hopefully extend its revitalizing effects.  A great suggestion is to take more short trips: Research shows that additional days don’t bring us additional happiness. Nawijn in his 2010 study concluded that two- to six-day vacations are the most beneficial to our well-being.

Another tip involves exercise.  Research shows that active days not only make us healthy but also happy. A separate 2010 study that appeared in the journal Work and Stress showed that people felt healthier, less tense and more energized during a winter sports holiday than throughout a typical day at work. Think about the timing of your vacation as well. Will you have a day off before you leave and/or a day off
after you get back home?

Researchers tell us don’t come back home on a Sunday. A study published in the Journal of Leisure Research shows that if we return on a Thursday or a Friday, we can insulate ourselves from the
shock of job demands and prolong the holiday happiness boost. To those suffering from leisure sickness, Vingerhoets suggests a good workout before going on vacation to help the body unwind. “But in some cases even just a reflection that there is an imbalance between work and non-work in our lives might already suffice,” he says.

Another tip that is more obvious is how you deal with the prep. If you are the type that enjoys planning
vacations, then spend more time planning it—sometimes we get more pleasure from the anticipation rather than the event itself.

Finally, plan some downtime—or simply don’t plan too much. Sometimes it makes sense to create time buffers to allow us to decompress and take in the experience as much as possible.

By thinking about and acting on these tips, perhaps our vacations will be more than just breaks from the routine, but also a time to recharge our batteries and be in a better state of mind when we get back home. 


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *