Does this sound familiar? You are a hard worker, you put in long hours and you deal with a lot of stress. You have been looking forward to a break so you can unwind and have some time for yourself. Then, when you finally have some time to relax and focus on yourself – you get sick!
But you’ve been symptom free all week, and now that you are under the weather, you cant enjoy your break!
Murphy’s Law at play again? Most likely not.
There is actually a term for this and it is called “Leisure Sickness” and in most cases it happens to the hardest workers who are in most need of a break. Such people include those consumed by their jobs, people who have highly stressful positions and people who have trouble transitioning between the work and non-work environment.
So why can we work without getting sick, but then as soon as our bodies switch off, we get sick!?
The natural state for our bodies is one where we are constantly changing between stress and relaxed which allows neither one to take over, but if we let work build up and move from one task to another without pausing, the stressed state can build up, eventually causing fatigue to body and brain.
It is not the break itself that is making people ill, it is the fact that people are working through exhaustion so when they do fins some time to relax, their immune system collapses. The symptoms that have been sitting in the background have now been brought to the foreground.
Other reasons for leisure sickness may include; a change in our habits during the weekend or on holiday, including more or less sleep, coffee or alcohol.
The fact that during busy times at work, our brain’s attention is away from signals from the body, so when it becomes quiet, those signals are suddenly perceived and interpreted as symptoms
Another theory is that when you have been busy at work or stressed, your body stays “activated” during the times that it should be resting. People with minor complaints don’t tend to reduce their energy production or adrenaline. Needless energy may compromise our health and weaken our natural defences.
The people most likely to suffer from this leisure illness are people who spend a lot of time thinking about their job and working in general, and as a result find it harder to deal with free time either through guilt of due to their busy schedules.
So now we know there is a reason for this, what can we do to prevent it?
Try re-evaluating your priorities and try and lighten pressure on yourself.
Try concentrating on other aspects of your life along with work. It can be challenging as you may need to change your perception in doing so.
Listen to your body’s signs telling you it needs to slow down.
Reduce your workload.
Eat a healthy diet.
Reconsider where you choose to take your break. If it is a holiday you are having why add extra stress of flying a long way to the other side of the world? Your immunity will be depressed and you’ll be exposed to bugs on the plane/ in cities. Consider taking a relaxing holiday closer to home.
Exercise to reset your body’s flight –or-flight reaction.
It will become possible to enjoy your well earned breaks once again.