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Stress Management Health Center

Vacations, Weekends Make You Sick?

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Vingerhoets is right on target, says Nadine Kaslow, PhD, professor and chief psychologist at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta.

"There's this workaholism, this perfectionistic feeling that nothing you do is ever good enough," she says. "You can't take the weekends off or go on vacation because the work is never done -- which it isn't if you're a perfectionist -- or you don't feel like you deserve to relax."

It's probable that the pattern for these people started much earlier, when they were children, Kaslow tells WebMD.

"My guess is that, for a lot of these people, while they were growing up there was this negative connotation with relaxing," she says. "Either it was the work ethic or their families weren't very fun to be around. This is the kid who can't stand to be with his family because it makes him have a headache or stomachache. They don't know how to have fun or relax, and what was supposed to be fun or relaxing as a kid was stress-producing.

"Of course, there's hope for these people," she continues. "Just as we know that migraines get better when tension is reduced, this is a true disorder that can be treated."

Sending people on more vacations or encouraging mental health days won't work, she tells WebMD.

"My guess is that these leisure sick people don't find time off rewarding. Having downtime brings up issues," she says. "If you're sitting at work busy all day, you don't have time to think about stuff. But during downtime, marital conflicts come up, tensions about money, or childrearing or whatever is bothering you. You can put them on the backburner at work, but you can't when you're not working."

Her advice: Deal with the underlying issues or struggles that are causing the symptoms.

"This is a signal there's need for a life change of some sort," she tells WebMD. "They need to think about the rewards of vacation time, about the type of vacation that would be rewarding for them, about what's relaxing for them."

Whether it's spending a whole day in bed or taking a cooking class in Paris, the leisurely sick need to take some control over their lives, Kaslow says -- "to discover what's relaxing for them, which may not be relaxing for other people."

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