It’s the summer holiday season in Finland and most of Scandinavia, and worldwide the pace of life slows down a little bit in July-August when people are taking their well-deserved annual leaves! The holiday culture varies between countries: in Finland it’s practically a norm to take 4-5 weeks off during the summer; in other countries 1-2 weeks at a time is more typical. Regardless of cultural differences and habits, we all need some recovery both on a daily/weekly basis and during longer breaks from work routines and pressures.
Firstbeat database analysis based on 27 000 24-hour heartbeat measurements from about 10 000 Finns showed that 13% of working age people suffer from chronic lack of recovery. During our recent annual seminar and publications, excellent points have been made by experts about how to address and tackle the issue of recovery and optimal performance. Here’s a collection of quotes and suggestions:
Ilkka Korhonen, Professor for Information Technologies for Healthcare at Tampere University of Technology, points out: “Man is not a slave of information but a slave of habits. Simply adding more information does not help; it’s essential to show how the information about well-being can be converted into actions. Measured information about our own body makes the invisible visible.”
Measurement-based information combined with expert guidance can be used to convert well-being facts into actions. “The information provided by multiday heartbeat measurements helps identify individual strengths and development areas and set realistic goals”, states Firstbeat Wellness Specialist Satu Tuominen.
Head Psychologist Antti Aro from Diacor Healthcare Services reminds that people do not have a battery that can be charged up during the holidays. “We need to take care of our recovery every day. In the long term, lack of recovery is harmful to our health.“
In other words, we should not wear ourselves out completely during the work year and then expect full recovery during the holiday; it takes regular maintenance!
Harri Lindholm, MD and Specialist in Clinical Physiology at the Finnish Institute for Occupational Health, compares succeeding in working life to athletic training; both deal with optimizing human performance. The best result is achieved when the load (amount of stress) and recovery are in balance. From time to time, you need to relieve the load to bring out improvements in performance.
“Stress touches everyone these days. Holidays can have an important role in breaking off the cycle of stress.” Ideal recovery during leisure time and holidays means doing the things that we enjoy. Active leisure time is more likely to promote good recovery than just laying around. -“We need some stress; the challenge is to find the balance between stress and recovery. Chronic stress is a risk factor for lowered performance and functional capacity; as harmful as for example high blood pressure or smoking”, Lindholm adds.
Alarmingly, studies show an increased risk of heart attacks at the beginning of holidays. Lindholm urges people to move into the holiday mode gradually, and not load too much activity for the beginning, when work matters can still be at the back of their mind. Finishing incomplete projects before leaving work and making a list for when you get back can help let go off work.
Lindholm encourages companies to remember that holidays are important for everyone. Employees are the biggest resource a company has, and the employer should ensure that each employee gets to have a holiday free of work stress. At the same time, “There are no supermen; even managers and CEO’s need a break to cope with their job demands.”
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