Staying Healthy on Holiday: How to Avoid Leisure Sickness

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Planning a trip away usually inspires a mix of emotions: anticipation, excitement and, often, relief. When you arrive at your destination, however, the story can be quite different.

The sudden change from stress to complete relaxation can actually make you ill. It’s known as ‘leisure sickness’, and can manifest in symptoms like nausea, flu, headaches and even insomnia.

Leisure sickness (a term coined by Professor Ad Vingerhoets) affects a growing number of people who struggle to spend time away from work. Luckily, we come bearing good news – if you suffer from leisure sickness yourself, you may find that the following tips can help alleviate the symptoms and kickstart your escape.

Sleep

With many illnesses, GPs will usually prescribe a healthy amount of sleep and rest on top of any other prescription. This should also be the case with leisure sickness.

Sleep plays a pivotal role in protecting our mental health, while helping to reduce blood pressure and heal blood vessels. For workers who push their body and mind to the limit during the 9-5, it’s important that sleeping hours are just as regimented. Aim for 7 – 9 hours of sleep per night in the weeks leading up to your holiday, as well as while you’re away. A word of warning though: don’t oversleep, as this could heighten holiday fatigue.

Balanced diet

It’s no secret that the healthier your diet, the more prepared your body is to fight infections and stress. A balanced diet of proteins, fats and carbohydrates, as well as plenty of nutrients and vitamins, helps to build up strong mental and physical defences. And luckily, plenty of holiday destinations have their own delicious and varied cuisines to keep you on your toes. Fresh fish on the charming Italian coast, perhaps?

A balanced diet also means watching your alcohol intake, which can be easier said than done while you’re letting your hair down on foreign soil! However, extensive consumption can lead to dehydration and impaired cognitive function, as well as migraines.

Exercise

The benefits of regular exercise are well-documented, and for leisure sickness sufferers, exercise can be particularly useful.

Physical activity increases the delivery of oxygen to core areas of the body, which boosts the energy needed to go about our day-to-day lives. To avoid leisure sickness setting in during weekend trips away or even longer adventures, try slotting in some regular exercise in the weeks running up to your holiday. Or, better still, while you’re away. A simple morning run could help you see even more of your destination.

Get outdoors

For ‘workaholics’, it’s common to be cooped up in a stuffy office for lengthy periods of time without experiencing fresh air. This can make the relaxation you feel on holiday even more intense, so try winding down before you jet off. Taking regular walks in-between your working hours will help to increase your physical activity, while giving you a chance to start de-stressing and switch off.

It’s important not to go straight from full speed ahead into a fun-filled holiday. Plan in time to gradually reduce your adrenaline levels and focus on fun activities that are free from stress.

Guilt-free

While many theories speculate about the roots of leisure sickness, it’s widely accepted that suffers can feel a sense of guilt while away from the office. This can manifest itself in many forms, from aches and pains to sickness and flu.

It’s important to realise that you are entitled to your time away from work, and that holidays are a key component in a happy work-life balance. One of the best ways to keep feelings of guilt at bay is by delegating necessary tasks to your colleagues before leaving, and planning for the time that you are away.

We hope that by following just a few of these tips, you’ll be able to enjoy your next trip away, guilt-free!

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