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Your time off has finally arrived and you can forget about work for one or two days, put your feet up and feel great. Or can you?

According to new research a growing number of people are plagued by a new illness that means they can't enjoy their weekend - leisure sickness. In our 24-7 lifestyle, we can consider the weekends as our time off so let us take a moment to look at this in more detail. It may explain why we get that cold at the end of term, are always tired for a couple of days after the boarders leave – so let’s hear from the experts.

It was the Dutch psychologist Dr Ad JJM Vingerhoets who observed that many people became ill, usually with flu and cold like symptoms, when they took holidays. Some people had other symptoms when they left work at the weekend or on time off. In this study, the linking factors in the 3% who fell ill were stressful jobs, heavy workloads, a tendency for perfection and being generally unable to relax. Worst of all, sufferers are usually symptom free throughout the week, only to fall ill during their free time when they should be enjoying themselves.

So, what steps can you take to reduce this? One way is to try and unwind a bit before your time off. Take time to prioritise your sleep and take time (even 5 minutes) to do ‘nothing’. By nothing, I mean not reading or watching TV just taking time to really relax. At work we are always responding to events and responsibilities you need to get into the habit of convincing your body that it is okay and safe to relax. By taking some time to relax every day before your time off you are helping your immune system. So, what does relaxation mean to you? Walking, reading , doing the garden, yoga or just chilling with a DVD and a glass of wine..... Try and build this in to be a habit rather than reaching for the coffee.

Try and put a bit of ‘holiday time’ into your time off so it is not a shock when you stop. If it is a big holiday, I try and put my suitcase out and do a bit of packing the week before. Some people leave the suitcase in full view so that you can see it and they make a list a few weeks before and cross off each small step to their holidays. It is about being in the right frame of mind......