Pre-holiday stress affects women

Adele Stickland Adele Stickland

The latest research indicates for women there is an increased probability of pre-holiday health slump.  In the last few days and weeks before a holiday people often find they feel unwell and stress levels peak prior to getting away. Women are especially prone to this with forty-four per cent of women reporting an increase of stress during the build-up to holidays.  The added burden to a working week with holiday deadlines can mean lower immunity on holiday creating a susceptibility to holiday illness.  This blog will outline the factors included in this research and as always offer positive tips to reduce pre-holiday overload.

Holidays are a time to relax and reflect upon your future

Life is busy and holidays are the perfect way to de-stress and unwind.  Time out that gives you the perfect opportunity to reset your health, recharge your batteries and unwind.   Holidays and time away from your normal routine is an untainted time to reflect on your life and the direction you are going in. What you can let go of and what you want to change?

And yes about 3 weeks into the holiday those lovely thoughts may well start to appear, and life can change when you return.  However, the pre-planning and extra workload prior to a getaway is overwhelming and can be catastrophic for your health.

Pre-holiday stress

It isn’t simply the stress about what to pack and how to get everything inside your suitcase or your car! Research has proved that the build-up to a holiday with increased deadlines is particularly pertinent for women.

Organising a holiday for loved ones home and away is stressful

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Research from Portsmouth University has found that increased worry, stress and even disappointment can emerge before a holiday.  If you have spent hours and weeks fantasising about your great escape then the reality of a grubby accommodation, the noise of others and general workload build-up affects your health and wellbeing.

It isn’t simply the pre-organising of:

  • pet care
  • granny care
  • passports and visas
  • creams, lotions, insect repellant
  • traffic chaos
  • clothing shopping and packing

It is also that not only are women carrying out these additional tasks for themselves but also having to think these tasks through and action them for other family members – home and abroad.

This additional workload is in addition to completing work deadlines and other home priorities.

Preparation before the holiday leads to high anxiety.   This level of apprehension is compounded with holiday travel and traumatic events which also heighten your stress response like traffic delays, car accidents (or even car hire!), sick kids or loss of travel money or other crazy mishaps that occur whilst travelling.

These create a peak in stress.  This pinnacle creates an overload response for your body that can have an effect on your ability to fight off colds, sickness and ill health whilst on holiday, but also affects the wellbeing of your heart.

The consequences are classic and well documented in the ‘holiday sickness’ effect.

Don’t miss: Ill effects of not exercising whilst on holiday

Pre-holiday peaks stress overload

Your life is busy and the additional overload can cause a spike in ill health.  The biggest concern for researchers is heart health.

Stress hormones like cortisol can reach a sudden peak at high-stress times, your brain can’t decide if this climax is because you are rushing towards several days relaxing or if it is simply the bigger stress, real-life response to running out of the way of out of control shopping trolley! (not dramatic enough? insert your own real-life modern drama please)

The point is cardiologists are warning us of the effects not only of long term stress but also the effect of the short bursts of stress.  This immediate and abrupt intensification leads to the stress hormones weakening the left ventricle of the heart.  This area of your heart is the main heart pumping chamber.  When this ventricle is damaged the heart is unable to pump an adequate supply of blood to your body will mean that all major body functions are disrupted and your heart can’t pump enough blood to support the function of your organs.

In addition to this effect on your heart, your blood pressure also spikes with this extra burden.

Short term burst of stress can create acute heart failure which means that whilst the symptoms appear suddenly they also go away fairly quickly.  Short term symptoms to look out for include shortness of breath and chest pain.

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Science of stress

Stress and your stress hormones are in careful balance in your body. This balance is regulated by your Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal axis (HPA-axis) which comprises of 2 counterbalancing systems:

  • The parasympathetic nervous system which is your body’s ability to rest and digest
  • The sympathetic nervous system is the fight, flight or fright response.

Your working busy life increases the sympathetic nervous response and your holiday should trigger your parasympathetic nervous system. Your exasperated reply is a common one, two weeks in the sun isn’t going to overturn a year of overwhelm.  Most women have an imbalance and lack symmetry in these two systems. Working in the ‘sympathetic’ quick response on a regular basis, without enough support for the parasympathetic avenue means that women, with burn out because of the constantly activated ‘sympathetic nervous’ response.

The danger of compounded stress

Of course, the biggest concern is the effect of long term issues of stress.  Short term spikes are inevitable, you simply didn’t you know you would be increasing them as much before a holiday. Other longer-term issues can make the short term spikes more dangerous.  The overload is quicker and more debilitating.

Stress is compounded by life experiences and events that haven’t been ‘dealt with’ in the past.  Energy sits in your body, trauma has a physical manifestation in your muscles and cells. You only have to look at the shoulders of a stressed executive to know that stress is displayed as a physical symptom.  Other issues that increase your overall stress portfolio include:


  • Childhood trauma and early life issues create a repeated behaviour pattern in adulthood.  Psychologists refer to this as codependency.  My book Gorgeous! how to look and feel fantastic every day goes into this in detail.  In summary, codependency is the cycle of behaviour.  If you have for instance an overworking mother or an alcoholic father you will create the same pattern of relationships in your adult life. for instance, working with a business partner who is an alcoholic workaholic! Breaking this cycle can be as simple as being aware of your own patterns. Being unaware and creating the same pattern creates long term stress.


  • Poor resilience and coping skills compound your stress levels.    Without a longer-term strategy to your own stress levels will mean that the straw that breaks the camels back is an inevitability. Not being able to bounce back from daily triggers, builds a longer-term overload. You find yourself unable to cope with stressors that you would normally be able to cope with.


  • Lack of social support has a significant and detrimental effect on your stress and health.  Your nervous system is improved with social contact and touch. Problems created by a constant battering of negative stressors are also made significantly worse if your coping mechanisms are poor. Being bullied at work is not so bad if you have a good social life, a supportive partner, and a loving family. It also helps significantly if you are physically fit and healthy.

Build up ‘stress’ resilience for the long term

The solution is in the long term, small daily habits that you have over a long period of time will increase your personal resilience to peak stress occurrences like holidays

  1. Daily relaxation practice – create a habit that lasts 30 days
  2. Great health which can start with drinking more water join my water challenge
  3. Improved physical health creating stronger muscles including and especially your heart health join the walking challenge
  4. Social support – talking it through with loved ones or going that one stage further and talking to a professional, 3rd party who can ‘see’ what is going on for you personally. If you would like to understand your stress indicators more, get to grips with the nutritional balance that will work for you feel free to book in your free consultation time with me.


Knowing yourself is an interesting and thoughtful journey, which will offer you so much more than simply your weight loss. You are fascinating, you are intriguing, you are amazing. Return back to the women you were, when life was full of anticipation and hope for your future. Regain your best health with nutrition, an exercise routine that suits your schedule and your fitness level and the latest science around mindset and mental health.

Headspace that is filled with negativity does not help you or your loved ones. I want you to shine and be gloriously happy. If you would like to understand your body more, get to grips with the nutritional balance that will work for you feel free to book in your session with me.




Get Gorgeous is a journey together – yours and mine.










PS. Don’t forget the gorgeous book – your insight into great health and vitality Gorgeous! how to look and feel fantastic every day.  Click here to find out about your Gorgeous book

“Gorgeous! is the perfect read for anyone looking to revolutionise not only their relationship with food and movement but also their relationship with themselves.”

Find out what other clients have to say…

What was your health like before you joined Get Gorgeous?

“I’d noticed that I was getting a lot of colds. I’m also an academic so being in a school type environment so I was getting a lot of colds, but also I was feeling rather lethargic.

From a nutrition point of view, I felt that I wasn’t putting the right things in my body but I didn’t know what the alternatives should be or could be in order to just feel that physically, feel more improved physically.

What have you tried or done in the past to improve your health?

“When I was a lot younger, it was easy just to cut certain foods out, you know, because predominantly, it is a weight thing for me but actually it’s not.  I appreciate now that my weight is the outcome of what it was that I was putting into my body

I’ve tried typical other diets which worked for two to three weeks and then as soon as I eat normally, as I would call it, it all comes flooding back.

Rachel explains:

“I don’t want to feel deprived”

I like food and I’m the sort of person if you tell me I can’t have something then I want it all the more so I don’t want to be deprived and obviously what had happened is that you know, ‘

“I am active and I don’t want to feel hungry”

I have a dog and I’m quite active, but my body’s got used to that, so in order for me to change anything about me physically, there needed to be the combination of different food choices and moving more.

So whereas previously it was just a case of just not eating as much, and not changing anything on the movement side, and I think for a long time, actually, I was eating the wrong things and also not enough. My body was feeling constantly starved. – Yes. – But I’d be thinking, “I’m very hungry, “therefore I must be losing weight,” and then being disappointed. When actually, the scales were going the opposite way and I was confused, you know, because historically, put less in, the weight dropped off but that’s because my makeup was different then. I was a lot younger,

I realized when I hit my 40s that actually I needed some additional help with that because my old-fashioned habits weren’t working anymore and I think that’s been it, and as a result, I know when I’ve not drunk enough water now because I’m thirsty, and I know what thirsty means and I know what hungry means in my body”

“Now I feel more confident, proactive about managing my business because I am mindful of looking after myself”

“I feel more confident, more proactive about managing my business because I feel well, content and more mindful of looking after myself.   Looking after myself which is in harmony with my business not in lieu of anything that I should be doing, as a businesswoman. I am not starving myself”
I know that I live a million miles an hour that because of my work so I wanted something that would be naturally absorbed into my day to day life. I’ve tried other things before and I have to change my way of doing things too much, it didn’t fit, Get Gorgeous fits my lifestyle”

Rachel @askthechameleon askthechameleon Get Gorgeous 19th July 2018


Adele Owner of Get Gorgeous

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