One spends his holiday on a wet Dutch campsite. The other burns his feet on the sweltering hot beach of a Portuguese beach. But there is also a large group that does not go on holiday at all. NU.nl asked experts what it does to you if you continue to work without interruption.
Although everyone needs rest and relaxation, that means something different for everyone, says Evelien Brouwers, endowed professor of mental health and sustainable employability at Tilburg University.
“Going on holiday can be wonderfully relaxing for one person. While it is terrible for another. Think of stress, crying children or loud snoring in the tent next to you. The idea of a holiday is that you rest. But where one of recovers, the other person gets stressed and vice versa.”
Figures from the ANWB and the tourism office NBTC show that a holiday is not an option for everyone. In 2022, 20 percent of people had no holiday plans. That’s about 3.5 million people.
Enjoy doing what you like
Work and organizational psychologist Jessica Bloom at Radboud University investigated whether it is a problem not to take a holiday. “Several studies have shown that stress at work has a detrimental effect on the health and well-being of employees. One way to combat stress is to occasionally engage in something other than work.”
But in the evenings and during weekends, people appear to recover insufficiently from this. “A vacation, in the sense of being absent from work for longer, puts people in a better position to do that.” During a trip you don’t have to focus on work requirements: you can do exactly what you feel like.
Those who never go on holiday run a greater risk of cardiovascular disease and even premature death.
Jessica Bloom, occupational and organizational psychologist
“We’re seeing those positive effects of a vacation disappear quickly,” says Bloom. Within a week of returning to work, you fall back into the old pattern, and most feel like they never left. This raises the question of whether it makes sense to go on holiday at all.
When it comes to possible health risks, that seems to be the case. “Research shows that people who never go on vacation have a higher risk of heart disease and even premature death.”
Take mini vacations during your work week
Despite the fact that the beneficial side effects have quickly disappeared, a period can act as a buffer for combating stress. “A holiday can help people to take a break from everyday worries and to see things in perspective.”
You don’t necessarily have to travel for that, says Bloom. “Taking vacation is important, going on vacation less so.” Brouwers says it’s especially important for your health to do something that relaxes you, whatever that is.
It’s important not to let it just arrive on your vacation.
Irene Niks, work and organizational psychologist
Irene Niks, work and organizational psychologist and senior researcher at TNO, also does not think it is necessary to actually leave. She recommends planning recovery moments during a working week. A kind of mini vacation.
“It’s important not to let it just come to your vacation.” Nothing compares recovery to recharging a battery. “Your work takes effort. If you don’t get enough rest from that, your battery becomes increasingly empty and you need longer to recharge.”
Stop working on time every day
For a good recovery moment, it is important that you do something different than your work asks of you. So if you sit behind a desk all day, it’s good to walk around the block. And if you do physical work, it can be nice to hang out on the couch for an evening.
Consciously closing your working day also helps, says Niks. “For example, by drawing up an action list with points for the next day or week.” Stopping work on time every day gives you the chance to relax at the end of the day, she says.
Which also helps, she says: “Indicate how long you work and when you take time off, and also make agreements about your availability. But there is not one rule of thumb. It is especially important that you can influence your free time yourself and that this time matches your personal needs.”
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