Cases of holiday stress are on the increase as people don’t know how to disconnect from work


According to the latest report on the Spanish labour market from InfoJobs & Esade, 51% of working Spaniards reply to emails and take work calls during their holidays, which increases what specialists call “holiday stress”.

Sílvia Saumell, psychologist and lecturer in Psychology and Educational Sciences at the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (Open University of Catalonia, UOC) recalls that back in 2004 doctors at the Austrian psychiatric clinic Wagner-Jauregg coined the term “deckchair depression” in reference to the anxiety some patients were suffering from as they found it difficult to forget about work during their summer holidays.

The psychologist said, “Nowadays, this syndrome, also known as “holiday stress” or “summer blues”, is becoming more and more common” and described some of the symptoms as “problems thinking clearly, concentration and memory, attention disorders, not speaking fluently, the need to check things repeatedly, sleep problems, the feeling of not having had enough rest and being down in the dumps”, along with other warning signs.

She also said, “We now know that periods of prolonged stress over time can cause sadness, a lack of motivation, the feeling of not wanting to do anything and that you don’t really enjoy what you do, and that you get annoyed for any reason or the slightest thing when someone tells you something.”

Saumell explained that “the levels of the two hormones related to stress (cortisol and adrenaline) are much higher when we work too much. Adrenaline makes the immune system stronger, and cortisol acts as an anti-inflammatory so that we can put up with long days.

“In contrast, these hormone levels are more likely to drop when we go into “holiday mode” as our immune system is depressed and we can get ill easier”, she also warned that it’s more common for “people to suffer who are overworked or are seen by their company as indispensable”.

According to the psychologist, holiday stress affects “everyone who puts too much emphasis on work”.

“Very often when some people are on holidays, they have no idea what to do with their free time, and they don’t know how to relax and enjoy themselves. They go from having a full agenda, being glued to their mobiles and always checking emails to having some free time and they don’t know what to do. Basically, without the routine of work, they are knocked off balance.”

According to the latest annual report from InfoJobs & Esade, 34% of Spanish workers mistakenly believe they are indispensable and nobody can replace them. 8% of them never take more than one week’s holidays in a row out of fear that things will not get done correctly in their absence.

“When I hear that someone is essential, I automatically think the company has an organisational problem,” says human resources consultant and UOC professor of Economics and Business, Gina Aran.

“People are essential for businesses to operate and grow, but focusing that on one person, in particular, is a big mistake. What’s really important is that employees have resources and are organised so that the company can adapt effectively to all kinds of changes.”

According to the InfoJobs & Esade report, “In 45% of cases, regular employees connect to the office during their holidays, middle-management 68% and those in senior positions 84%”.

Many of them do it on their own initiative, but 30% say it’s because of demands from their boss, who thinks it’s perfectly reasonable that workers are permanently connected, even if it’s counterproductive, says Aran.

“Workers perform better if they can rest and disconnect for a few days,” says Aran, who added that “the fact that employees feel well prevents psychological illnesses, nervous system, and musculoskeletal ailments, eye damage and obesity problems.

Aran finished by saying, “disconnecting from work is highly necessary to rest and remain productive afterwards. I strongly recommend that everyone switches off when on holidays, so they can experience other things, enjoy themselves and most importantly, relax. And for those who can’t avoid checking their smartphone, I advise them to only do it once a week during specific time slots.”


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