Why we get sick when we switch off

It’s the cruellest of ironies – just as we are about to go on a holiday, we get sick. There’s nothing more frustrating and upsetting than looking forward to your well-deserved break and you suddenly fall ill. Or worse, when you’re on your holiday, your struck down with an illness and are far from the comfort of your own home. But why does this always seem to happen just when we don’t want it to?

Known officially as leisure sickness, it’s an affliction that comes to those of us whose body is shocked by the sudden experience of doing nothing! And it may not have to be a big holiday that triggers it, you could be going on a weekend away and suddenly you have headaches, muscle pain, fatigue, the flu, or a fever.

According to research, the busyness of our everyday lives can distract us from what’s going on in our body – we could be ignoring the symptoms, so it’s kind of like out of sight out of mind. But when we focus on not getting sick or are wanting to stay healthy, we almost make ourselves worried and stressed, in turn causing a reaction from our body.

Scholars from Tilburg University believe that our main stressors in life (family, work, partner) may not feel like they affect us until we take a break.

So with all this said, how can we make sure that we don’t get leisure sickness? Is it really avoidable if it’s something that we are deliberately bringing upon ourselves? Researchers suggest exercising more to keep fit and stave off illness, as well as getting plenty of sleep. Cutting down on alcohol and coffee may also help.

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Surprisingly, researchers also suggested that we see our friends and family more during the week so that we aren’t looking forward to seeing them as much, and therefore being extremely let down when we inevitably get sick. They also believe that cutting down work slowing instead of going straight into holiday-mode can avoid a shock.


Have you ever been sick just before a big trip? Or have you been ill during the holiday? What happened and why do you think it occurred? Tell us below.