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Leisure sickness – how to stay well during the holidays

Date: 10-01-2021

 Written by Chantelle van der Weyden BPsych (Hons), AdvDip(Nat), AdvDip(NutMed)


Leisure sickness refers to the relatively common condition whereby people find themselves experiencing various symptoms of illness when on holidays, or even on the weekends. The term leisure sickness was coined and first studied by Dutch psychologist Professor Ad Vingerhoets. In a group of almost 2000 men and women, it was found that many reported feeling unwell when taking a break from work. The most common symptoms reported were headaches, fatigue, nausea, and cold and flu-like symptoms.

While the causes of leisure sickness aren’t entirely clear, it appears that the onset is often associated with a stressful or busy period in life. Risk factors include a longer than average work week, higher self-reported work load and job stress, as well as difficulties transitioning to a non-work situation, a high achieving personality type and those with a greater sense of responsibility with respect to work.

The holiday season alone brings an increase in stress for many, which decreases our resistance to illness. With the upcoming holiday period, how can you keep leisure sickness at bay?

Address your stress

During busy periods and in the lead up to leisure time, work on reducing stress. This will look different for everybody – but yoga, meditation, gentle exercise, and rest are all good places to start. Prioritise what needs to be completed before you go on holidays, so you can leave work behind.

Herbal and nutritional medicines to consider

Withania possesses significant anti-stress properties and has been well studied in anxiety, depression and stress. Rehmannia is also valuable during the holiday period as it assists with rejuvenation and recovery, preparing you for the unavoidable return to the stress of work and life. Lavender, lemon balm, Siberian ginseng may also be helpful.
Magnesium is depleted during periods of stress, and supplementation may support a healthy stress response. B complex vitamins have been demonstrated to improve perceived stress and anxiety in stressed individuals. And multivitamin supplementation has also been demonstrated to have anti-stress effects and enhance feelings of general wellbeing.

Increase and protect your energy

Ensure you are getting as much sleep as possible in the lead up to your holiday. 7-9 hours a night is ideal. Maintain a gentle exercise, as exercise is known to support healthy energy levels. But equally, ensure you are getting enough rest.

Herbal and nutritional medicines to consider.

B complex vitamins are well indicated and have been shown to reduce fatigue following an extended multitasking exercises (i.e. life). Magnesium is a cofactor in energy production and one of the symptoms of deficiency is fatigue.
Herbs such as Siberian ginseng and Rhodiola have anti-fatigue properties and may help improve physical and mental performance.

Support your immunity

Maintain good hygiene practices and handwashing when travelling. Ensure you are consuming a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, and reduce sugar and alcohol in the lead up to your holiday. Research supports the concept of spending more time in nature for both enhanced immune function and improved mental health, so be sure to spend some of your holiday time by the ocean or in the bush.

Herbal and nutritional medicines to consider

Vitamin C, vitamin A, zinc, vitamin D and various mushroom extracts have been shown to support a healthy immune system.
Herbs such as Withania, Rhodiola and Siberian ginseng also have immune-modulating properties, especially in a depressed immune system as a result of stress.

Maintain healthy habits

Try to maintain healthy eating habits and an exercise routine before your holiday. Of course, a holiday is all about relaxation and indulgence, but ensuring you are getting in some fruits and vegetables daily, moving your body every now and then, and getting enough rest will do wonders to keep leisure sickness at bay.

Your natural health practitioner is well placed to support your transition through the holiday season. Reach out if you would like support https://www.biomedica.com.au/find-a-practitioner