What happens to you mentally over lack of holidays?

Monday Sept 20, Tour EXP 

The benefits of holidays are obvious to most people – yet last year over half of Americans (56 per cent) didn’t take any.What they may not realize is that abstaining from a vacation can be seriously bad for your health, according to experts.  Here they reveal how those who don’t take enough breaks can suffer serious damage physically and mentally. The effect on your body Nuffield Health, the UK’s largest healthcare charity, and tour operator Kuoni, conducted a study in 2012 called The Holiday Health Experiment and discovered there are striking effects of not jetting away. The test found those who didn’t go away for a break had higher blood pressure, didn’t sleep as well and had higher levels of stress.

Altogether 12 volunteers underwent a health assessment, wore heart monitors to measure their sleep patterns and resilience to stress, had psycho-therapeutic tests and were given dietary and lifestyle advice during the summer. The benefits of the break lasted at least a fortnight longer than the vacation and the study claimed it could be felt for months in some cases.

A study by Allianz Global Assistance found that when Americans do go on holiday, 61 per cent of them continue to work while they are out of the office. With US workers failing to take advantage of their hard-earned time off, a staggering 429 million days of accrued holiday entitlement went unclaimed in 2013. It also found that 56 per cent didn’t take any holiday at all last year.

The company unveiled a television ad after the release of the study featuring child actors who admonish their parents for not booking a family getaway. Psychotherapist Christine Webber, who carried out the testing, said blood pressure reductions are important to reduce the chances of stroke and heart attacks, while better sleep is good for the immune system. She said: ‘It’s apparent from our results that the majority of people feel happier, more rested and much less stressed because of their vacations.’

Dr Lucy Goundry, Nuffield Health’s Medical Director, said: ‘For the first time, our clinical results show how holidays helped these couples reduce their blood pressure, improve their sleep and manage their stress levels better. ‘These results clearly demonstrate that on holiday our ability to physically cope with stress improves. ‘I urge everyone to ensure they plan their holidays carefully. Working hard is important but so is taking time to rest and recuperate.’  Corinne Usher, Consultant Clinical Psychologist, said: ‘The reported benefits of holidays are short lived and only last a couple of weeks at most. The greatest happiness appears to come from planning and anticipating a break. Given the short lived nature of benefits, some researchers have suggested it might be helpful to think in terms of taking more frequent short term breaks.

Did you notice, I said ‘break’? Not surprisingly, there is a difference between taking a holiday and taking a break.’ The test supported results from The Framingham Study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology in 1991.It discovered that female homemakers who took a holiday every six years or even less doubled their risk of developing heart attacks or having a fatal heart problem. This was compared to those who took time out at least twice a year.

The test analysed women’s lifestyle based on data started in 1948, considering physical factors and including lifestyle choices such as their attitude toward children, money and travel. Speaking to ABC News, primary care physician Natasha Withers from One Medical Group in New York said: ‘Rest, relaxation, and stress reduction are very important for people’s well-being and health. This can be accomplished through daily activities, such as exercise and meditation, but vacation is an important part of this as well.’  She listed a decreased risk of heart disease and improved reaction times as some of the benefits from taking some time off.  The effect on your mind

Not taking enough time off is not good for your career prospects, says one expert.

Corinne Usher, who managed and led NHS mental health psychological services in Buckinghamshire for 20 years, said to MailOnline: ‘Not taking our full annual leave entitlement can lead to people feeling resentful towards colleagues in the workplace, and more likely to make mistakes.’

She added: ‘There is a lot of research into the beneficial effects of taking a holiday, such as making us more creative problem solvers, refreshing our motivation, increasing levels of happiness, and lowering levels of stress and emotional exhaustion.

‘These promote greater survival rates for people at risk of heart problems and better family relationships, to name a few.’

BPS Associate Fellow & HCPC Registered Clinical Psychologist, Dr Rachel Andrew, backed this up, saying to MailOnline: ‘A lot of people get caught up in the day to day stresses, and this leads to them becoming disconnected and getting no enjoyment or emotional connection to what they are doing.

‘In order to build people back up again, I recommend taking time out from hectic, pressured lifestyles. ‘It is essential to switch off. This can be linked to escaping technology, too. This can free up the mind to be creative.’ The effects of working overtime can be equally destructive. Researchers from the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health found that those who worked more than 11 hours a day, as opposed to seven to eight hours, were more than twice as likely to have a major depressive episode. This even applied to those who had no prior mental health issues. But do we even need a holiday?

Dr Andrew said that shunning a holiday could actually help your mental state. ‘A lot of work I do is about people making time each day in order to improve their motivation, something a short holiday alone won’t tackle,’ she said. ‘I usually recommend taking time to switch off each day and focus back on why they are doing what they are doing. ‘In fact some people I interact with find holidays stressful, and I work with them to overcome any obstacles that could hinder them.’ Corinne Usher, a consultant clinical psychologist, said that some people actually report something called ‘leisure sickness’, in that people who are characteristically perfectionistic and particularly committed to work may find it more stressful to be away from it and tend to find it more difficult to relax. She said to MailOnline: ‘The reported benefits of holidays are short lived and only last a couple of weeks at most. ‘The greatest happiness appears to come from planning and anticipating a break.

‘Given the short lived nature of benefits, some researchers have suggested it might be helpful to think in terms of taking more frequent short term breaks. ‘Did you notice, I said ‘break’? Not surprisingly, there is a difference between taking a holiday and taking a break.’