Why you get sick on your week off

You’re looking forward to your holiday or time off, you push yourself at work to get everything finished up so you can enjoy your time off. You bust a gut to get the house tidy so that it’s all nice and clean when you get back. You run around gathering everything you need to have a good time, making plans, packing cases and checking schedules.

Even if you are staying at home, which you may well be this year, you do a fair bit of prep for a week off.

Finally, the eve of your time off arrives, you finally sit down on the sofa and let out a big sigh of relief and it hits.

A cold. A dodgy tummy. A headache.

Isn’t it just bloody typical?

Well, and you’re going to have to trust me on this, it’s actually a good thing.

The symptoms that you get from a cold, the runny nose, the high temperatures, the aches pains and shivers are not caused by the virus’s themselves – but by your body working to overcome them and repair itself.

Your body doesn’t stop to do these minor repairs when you are running on stress. (Stronger viruses etc will kick your arse of course and you are more susceptible to them when you are running on stress long term.) When you are running on stress, the body will keep going as best as it can – it’s a work horse like that. So, when you finally have time to chill out, the body gets to work finally doing all the minor repair and clean up jobs that it’s been putting off.

That’s the nervous system flipping back into the parasympathetic (rest and repair) mode after having too much time in the sympathetic (fight or flight) mode.

What can you do about it?

There is one way to stop this from happening every time you have some time off.

Make giving yourself time for rest a priority all of the time.

I know it doesn’t seem easy to begin with. It requires saying NO to taking on extra things. It’s about setting firm boundaries with your work, friends, family and self.

It might mean that you get into bed no later than 11pm every night, even if that means the laundry gets folded tomorrow or you don’t watch the next episode of your box set.

Or it might mean that no matter what you have a day at home every week, even if that means saying no to overtime at work or lunch with family, or helping a friend move their sofa. If saying no to people makes you feel anxious, I want you to remember this – the only people who will be mad at you for putting boundaries in place are people who are benefitting from you having none. They will adjust.

Carve out time for yourself on a daily and weekly basis, to give your body time to stay on top it’s maintenance and you’ll feel better all year round.

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