The Science Behind Your Summer Break

August 2018

Summer’s here, bringing warmer weather, bank holidays and the joys of handover documents. Taking time off is important and can be a much-needed respite from the working year but does it really give us the rest and respite we crave?

And what about the effects when we return? How long does that post ‘holiday glow’ last for?

Research suggests that the effects of a holiday completely disappear less than three weeks after returning to work¹. Consider yourself a perfectionist? The research suggests the effects of your recovery are gone in just three days.

Although it would be great, a holiday every three weeks, or even three days, is not very reasonable. So the solution? Working on making the most of the lead up to your holiday, fully recovering whilst away and continuing to put rest and recovery techniques into practice on your return.  

The best place to start is by looking at the busy week leading up to your break. How often have you gone on holiday, only to fall ill after the first few days? You aren’t alone. Research shows that in the week leading up to your break your to-do list is typically longer than ever and stress levels peak². This can lead to your body becoming vulnerable and consequently, you are prone to catch a cold in the first days of your holiday. Activities to reduce your stress can be critical to implementing at this time.  Getting to bed on time, keeping up good eating habits, even visiting the gym the night before your holiday will boost your immune system and get rid of excess stress hormones. This will help you segway into your holiday in a state of total relaxation.

Recovery researchers Sonnentag and Fritz suggest four key factors that aid recovery whilst on holiday³. 


Disengaging from work will reduce your fatigue and improve your mood.³ Avoid bringing any work-related distractions with you on holidays; disable your work email and leave your work phone behind.  Try to remove any reminders of work from your week(s) off, for example, hide away your work clothes and shoes, file away any visible paperwork you may have at home.


Relaxation is very individual – you might be calmed down by running, reading,  swimming, socialising or getting a massage. Work out what works for you then start doing it as soon as you switch on that out-of-office. Aim to start your holiday in a relaxed state.


When individuals engage in challenging tasks and learn a new skill they feel greater levels of well-being, accomplishment, and competence. Take this holiday to try out something new, whether it is learning to cook in the ‘local cuisine’, tackling that unread book list or trying out a new sport, plan in a new and different yet manageable challenge.


Recovery is enhanced when people feel a sense of control over their lives outside of work. Take some time to take control. Do your own research into what you would like to do whilst away, make a holiday ‘plan’ that is right for you – remember to detach, relax and learn something new!

When you check-in to your new holiday destination, check-in with yourself. Are you really relaxing and recovering? Try out these four central principles to enjoy your holiday and recover.

These tips are not just for the holidays. Continue to relax and recover when back to the ‘grind’. Detaching, relaxation, mastery and control can be built into your working week ensuring you are continuing to recover, even when not under a sun umbrella…

Rest and recovery tips enable you to reduce stress, boost wellbeing and build resilience. For more hints tips and techniques, sign up to Kelaa.

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¹ Brosschot, J. F., Gerin, W., & Thayer, J. F. (2006). The perseverative cognition hypothesis: A review of worry, prolonged stress-related physiological activation, and health. Journal of psychosomatic research, 60(2), 113-124.

² de Bloom, J. (2015) Making Holidays Work. The British Psychological society. Vol. 28, pp.632-636.

³ Sonnentag, S., & Fritz, C. (2007). The Recovery Experience Questionnaire: development and validation of a measure for assessing recuperation and unwinding from work. Journal of occupational health psychology, 12(3), 204.

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