Navigating Leisure Sickness: When Relaxation Brings Unexpected Symptoms

Have you heard of leisure sickness? It’s a real thing, a concept introduced by psychologists Ad Vingerhoets and Maaike van Huijgevoort in 2006, challenges the idea that time off always equates to improved health. This phenomenon manifests as unexpected physical symptoms during weekends, holidays, or leisure periods.

In the pursuit of a well-balanced life, individuals often look forward to leisure time as an opportunity to unwind, relax, and rejuvenate. However, for some, this seemingly blissful downtime can be accompanied by an unexpected and paradoxical phenomenon known as “leisure sickness.” This curious condition challenges the conventional notion that leisure is always synonymous with health and relaxation.

Symptoms include headaches, muscle pain, fatigue, and flu-like symptoms characterise leisure sickness, surprising individuals seeking relaxation with an unwelcome bout of illness.

Abrupt shifts from a demanding work routine to leisure, coupled with psychological stress anticipation, contribute to leisure sickness. The body’s reliance on stress hormones and the abrupt removal of work-related stressors can trigger adverse physical reactions.

Psychological Factors:
The psychological aspect of leisure sickness cannot be ignored. Anxiety about upcoming leisure time, especially for those who find it challenging to disengage from work-related thoughts, can contribute to the development of symptoms. The mind-body connection plays a crucial role in leisure sickness, highlighting the intricate relationship between mental and physical well-being.

Prevention and Coping:
Gradual transitions between work and leisure, coupled with relaxation techniques like meditation, help manage leisure sickness. Establishing a balanced work-life routine and setting realistic expectations for leisure time are essential for prevention.

I fall prey to this so often but have found a way to avoid it ๐Ÿคž For the past 2 weeks I have slowed down my diary and this week it is almost totally free from meetings and calls bar a couple of essential ones. I find this winding down gradually to prepare for a break is essential to have a good quality break.

Having grown up in South Africa I find I am still hard wired to December being the big break of my year leaving me feeling fresh and inspired to kickstart again in January. In South Africa December is like August is here in the UK – despite the lack of sunshine and heat, I still feel ‘programmed’ to rest in December.

How about you, when is your significant rest period and how do you avoid the dreaded leisure sickness?

By Angela De Souza

I am a female founder CEO and I know what it took to get to where I am today even though I am still far from where I want to be. It's been a lonely journey. There are very few other female founders that I have managed to chat with, learn from and grow with. So rather than feeling sorry for myself, I decided to build my own super network with women just like me and those further ahead in the journey who are willing to share their wisdom and experience with us. Find out more at and

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