Time to read: 4 min

Never getting sick on vacation again

7 March 2024|Lifestyle

Been healthy the whole year, and then bam, right on vacation, you get hit. How annoying is that? Sound familiar? There's a good chance you're dealing with leisure sickness or vacation flu, a condition that's less rare than you might think. But don't worry, you'll bounce back in no time.

So, what is leisure sickness?

About 3% of the Dutch population experiences nausea, flu, fever, or extreme fatigue right at the start of the holiday season, according to research by psychologist Ad Vingerhoets at Tilburg University (1). He coined the term 'leisure sickness' for this phenomenon. According to Vingerhoets, vacation flu mainly affects people with a busy, stressful job, where they feel a lot of responsibility. Here's why.

Stress hormones

At home, stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol keep our immune system running at full speed; you wouldn't want to get sick and not be able to work.

But in the relaxation and free time of your temporary utopia, your stress levels drop, and at the same time, the protective response of your immune system plummets. It's like your body thinks: finally, time to get a bit sick.

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Preventing Vacation Flu

With these tips, you'll hopefully conquer your vacation flu in no time.

  • Relax Gradually and Wind Down: Your revved-up nervous system needs time to rebalance. The period just before your vacation can be particularly stressful, so be aware of it. Don't work hard until the very last minute; instead, gradually wind down towards your vacation. Quick fix: take some time off before you actually go on the trip.
  • Stay in Your Flow: Don't immediately disrupt your entire routine on vacation. Get up (at least the first few days) around the same time as usual and stick to a similar eating pattern. For example, don't suddenly consume a lot more alcohol and try to eat somewhat healthy.
  • Keep Moving: Whether it's a morning swim, a walk, a run, or even a good workout, it helps. This way, the 'shock' for your body is smaller. Blood and oxygen circulate well through your body, providing energy.
  • Exercise More: Not during your vacation, but during your working life. Exercising gives you a good feeling and lowers your cortisol levels (both in the short and long term).
  • Healthy Lifestyle: Eating well and getting enough sleep make you less susceptible to stress and strengthen your immune system. And that, in turn, helps with a smooth transition from work to vacation.
  • Reduce Work Pressure: The core of the problem is the stress that accumulates throughout the year and manifests itself during the vacation. Therefore, see if there are things you can do differently with your work to make your life less stressful.
  • Relax at Home: By relaxing at home, you won't get sick at your vacation destination. You might end up getting sick at home now, but it can work as a temporary solution. In the long run, it's better to address the problem at its core.
  • Level Up Your Lifestyle: To truly prevent leisure sickness, you first need to critically examine your current lifestyle. A healthier lifestyle and less work pressure are essential to solving your problem.
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