"Leisure sickness" plagues people on vacation

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COLUMBIA - With the holiday season quickly approaching, students are heading home and people in the work force are taking more time off from work. Vacation time may seem like a positive, but for some its plagued with headaches, muscle pains and fatigue. 

The term "leisure sickness" was coined by Dutch psychologist Ad Vingerhoets. It refers to the symptoms some people experience when they take time off from a stressful schedule. 

Doctor Tara Flynn said, "I think some of it has to do with the neuroendocrine system. It's the relation between the adrenaline that keeps people going and doing their jobs or their school work. When they get a break, they may not have that adrenaline anymore."

Flynn said the sudden loss of adrenaline can affect the immune system and cause people to experience flu-like symptoms.  

According to Web MD, the most common symptom of leisure sickness is a migraine headache. However, lower winter temperatures usually cause symptoms to escalate, making people feel like they have the flu. 

MU psychology professor Jeff Rouder said students going on break after finals week and professionals with stressful workloads are likely to experience this. 

"It's completely normal for the body to need extra fuel after a stressful time," Rouder said. "If someone is working hard for a period of time and suddenly gets a break their body's immediate reaction will be to need rest and nourishment."

Rouder said many Columbia professionals will spend most of their time off taking family trips which can yield to more stressful conditions. 

He also said a couple days off from work is probably not enough time for the body to catch up.

According to Flynn, there are steps people can take to avoid a severe crash when they finally get a break. 

Flynn said taking time to actively pursue resting periods and maintaining good diet and exercise will help prevent a sharp drop in health when the body gets a moment to rest.