Vacation can be that wonderful carrot, dangling out in the future. Blocking the time off on the calendar, making reservations, and other acts of preparation can add little boosts of positivity to dreary days between now and then.

For some of us, it inspires cleared inboxes and finished projects, too. Unfortunately, many of us end up sick on our well-deserved breaks. Here are a few reasons we end up under the weather and some ways to get us back out enjoying it instead.

Leisure sickness

A term coined by Ad Vingerhoets, this refers to the idea that we tend to get sick as soon as we take time off. He posits that at work we tend to be stressed, increasing our levels of adrenaline which then can throw our body — including our immune system — out of whack.

The results of his pilot study indicated that leisure sickness was attributed to a “high workload and [personal] characteristics, namely, the inability to adapt to the nonworking situation, a high need for achievement, and a high sense of responsibility with respect to work.”

Thus, to avoid leisure sickness, we could stop caring so much about work, reduce our responsibilities, and start taking some practice vacations to get better at the transition. Or, more realistically, we can incorporate exercise into our lifestyle to help reduce stress and build our immune system; both of which better prepare us for the transition and jolt to our immune system.

Travel woes

And speaking of immune systems, travel can wreak havoc on our bodies. Whether it is proximity to sick people on the plane or in crowded places; changing climates; or exposure to new bacteria and viruses, our exposure to illness increases when we travel.

The best way to protect ourselves is to practice the basics: wash hands frequently; keep hands away from our eyes and mouth; and if travelling on a plane, stay hydrated. It can also be helpful to remove as much stress from the trip as possible by planning ahead, not overscheduling, and leaving time for recovery and transition.

Sunny and 180°

And speaking of transitions, while it is understandable to want to leave the snow for a tropical beach, we also tend to embrace a lot of other opposites during vacation that do not necessarily refresh us.

Changing time zones, staying up later than normal, drinking more alcohol or caffeine, ditching the exercise and eating drastically different are all ways we can add stress to our bodies, weaken our immune systems and end up feeling less than stellar.

To avoid overwhelming our systems, it can be helpful to schedule transition time and a little extra sleep in the beginning of the trip. Abandoning our routine may be essential to our idea of a vacation, but it will be more successful if we can give ourselves a minute to adjust at the start.

The bottom line is, regardless of how we choose to spend our time off, with a little preparation we can avoid or minimize the negative impacts a significant break to our routing can have.