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Stress Management Health Center

Vacations, Weekends Make You Sick?

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Headache and migraine were the most common symptoms for weekend sufferers, followed by fatigue and muscle pain. During vacations, they often had cold and flu-like symptoms. The pattern generally started around age 26, and most people had a long history of symptoms -- more than 10 years. They generally could trace the onset to something stressful: a new job, the birth of a child, relationship problems, a change of job, or a marriage.

The healthy people reported no such symptoms.

It's not that those with leisure sickness led any different lifestyle, Vingerhoets says. "Their smoking, drinking, sleeping, and coffee-drinking habits were all about the same," he says.

And it's not that they are more involved in their jobs, he says. "But they are more preoccupied with work in general and have more trouble relaxing. They have trouble dealing with free time, often because they feel guilty," he says.

In fact, the leisure sickness group actually showed a stronger appreciation for vacations and weekends than did the others, he says -- they just weren't able to enjoy their time off.

"Their weekend symptoms they attributed to their own personality traits or work styles, as well as to conditions at work," he says. "Their vacation symptoms were due to the vacation itself -- the stress of preparing for travel made them ill, and they thought more about their jobs than the other group."

Such people typically are perfectionists who are not very assertive, but have a higher sense of responsibility than others, Vingerhoets says.

Is there hope for the leisurely sick? Vingerhoets takes cues from the 20 who reported spontaneous recovery from the condition.

"Most frequently, they reported getting another job, changing their attitude toward their work and work in general, and paying more attention to signals from the body," he says.

Weekend exercise helps, and so does counseling, he tells WebMD.

"It may help to take another view of your life, of your work situation, and see things in a different perspective, give more weight to other things that are important in life," he says.

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