Holidays are good for you but not for long, says a recent analysis of several studies.
Benefits like post-vacation happiness, better health and more energy can disappear even faster than the holiday suntan.
In fact, just two weeks back at work can see people as tired as before they jetted off, researchers found.
But health psychology researcher Jessica de Bloom of Radboud University, in the Netherlands, says the evidence still points to holidays helping people.
The academic, whose views appear in The Psychologist as part of a review of studies on the mental and physical benefits of holidays, is currently looking at ways to help holidaymakers plan their vacation, “savour” it and prolong its’ positive effects.
But does the holiday feel-good factor have to be the only way to make work more bearable?
If we find our jobs unfulfilling, stressful, over-competitive or poorly paid – and maybe all four – then we need more than the occasional break to compensate for nearly a year of comparative discontent.
We can all look forward to a holiday. But it might not be wise to rely on it as an escape route or invest it with a power it is unlikely to possess. Otherwise we could be wasting our time at work – and our money getting away from it!
Equally, don’t get sucked into “holiday rivalry”. According to a new report two in five of us choose a holiday as an exercise in one-upmanship over friends, relatives or colleagues. That’s not so much a holiday as an exercise in futility.
As a former court reporter I went through a phase where my job became more a burden than a boon.
Where once I relished the attention to detail and commitment to accuracy the job demanded, boredom set in.
I could not wait for the day to finish. Weekends became the next thing to nirvana while holidays ended up as a mental crutch and a central motivation for working.
As a result, the much vaunted post-vacation feel-good factor withered on the vine, adding another layer of discontent.
As I hunted for an answer I could see my job still offered as much potential for satisfaction as it always had done.
The problem lay in my thinking. I realised I had to change it.
I began to be more grateful for the work I did and the extraordinary level of trust bestowed upon me.
Where once I was burdened by boredom, even the most mundane tasks became a joy. Instead of snapping at annoying bosses with pointless questions, I again treated them as respected colleagues. Those who I was convinced could not do their job properly or promptly became people to make a special effort to help.
Eventually work became something to treasure again. Monday mornings became fun. The afternoons too! In fact the entire working week became a series of opportunities to express my professionalism – and a new-found compassion.
And holidays? Well they stopped being essential battery re-chargers.
They had soon taken on a meaning much more in sympathy with the word’s original root of Holy Day.
Increasingly they provided opportunities for stillness, moments of quite reflection and occasions to appreciate the beauty that surrounds us all.
But very welcome was the fact my days at work did, too.