Are you like Professor Ad Vingerhoets of Tilburg University? Professor Vingerhoets noticed that he always became ill on the first few days of his holiday. He decided to study 2,000 men and women to find out why. He discovered that people who get “stop and collapse” syndrome shared certain characteristics.
It won’t surprise you to discover that these people had a high workload. They also tended to have an over-developed sense of responsibility and perfectionism driven through them like “Blackpool” through a stick of rock.
With the holiday season coming up, I thought it worth reminding you perfectionists out there of the fact so that you can do something about it. My suggestion is that you put some of your focus to good use and plan for your holidays with the same military precision that you usually reserve for work.
Check your passport now. If it’s about to run out, act immediately. Horror stories of the draconian checks that are in place for those trying to renew passports have filtered through to me. Three weeks before you go start making lists and shopping for essentials. Two weeks before you go, start winding down your work projects and passing your duties onto others. Don’t go into denial about your holiday. It will happen. Accept it. Begin to let work go.
Vingerhoets couldn’t pinpoint what causes “stop and collapse” but one theory is that the stress of everyday work keeps your immune system fired up and turbo-charged, with the result that as soon as you relax, your immune system slows down making you vulnerable. One solution is to boost immunity: eat well before you go on holiday, maybe pop some vitamin C cut down on smoking and drinking. Get in training, in other words. Then you can collapse when you get home from holiday. Like the rest of us.
Elisabeth Wilson is a counsellor, psychotherapist and the author of Stress-proof Your Life (Infinite Ideas, £12.99)