July 8th, 2010
Marseille, France, almost 40 degrees celsius, by the sea, by the sea, by the beautiful sea. Life is, well, very French right now, and that’s a good thing. Somewhere further north of here hundreds of latex-clad cyclists are sweating through the ups and downs of the Tour de France. Indeed, everywhere across rural France one encounters people of all ages on fancy bikes, pedaling their thighs to the max to get up and around just one more mountain climb. It’s one thing to see youngsters in body-fitting synthetic, looking hot in every sense of the term, and quite another to see a high number of middle-aged and older helmet-topped cyclists, fantasies of youthfulness dancing in their heads. Actually, as I zip by them in my sleek Peugeot on the way to my next most amazing meal I almost envy their discipline. But not really. Right now I am thinking of what awaits me at dinner and they are thinking of conquering their pain.
Taking a time-out from work and stress in Canadian summer is practically a loyal act of citizenship. So it is that I am amused to read that research on the benefits of vacationing is rather scanty. Can one return from holidays somewhere new and wonderful and be utterly refreshed for resuming all the meaningless tasks we do to earn our keep? Not clear, say the experts.
Tracking 96 Dutch workers, researchers found that while they were on holiday their stress, nervousness, and anxiety went down significantly, while their sense of well being intensified. Yeah, like one really needs to do research to figure that out, right? But the researchers then discovered that almost a week after returning to work those Dutch samples started to feel as stressed out as they had been before they went away. Perhaps it was the sobering effects of Visa bills on their cluttered desks, who knows?
The report of the findings in the journal “Work and Stress” admit the researchers tracked only winter vacationers, which for many Canadians is practically a contradiction in terms. And if you are only following 96 Dutch people are you really doing science?
On this holiday in France I have been surrounded by orange-clad fans of the Netherlands team which, as I write, is inching its way, goal by goal, towards the World Cup finals. I haven’t seen this much jubilation in the bars since the Canadiens threatened to claim the Stanley Cup. But to be fair, the scale of euphoric anticipation over here in the EU is immense compared to our excitement over hockey. Football is a global, not merely a national, event. I bet if the researchers took the pulse of any Dutch person right now, at work or play, they’d find an accelerated heart beat–but the good kind of stress, I guess.
I am not sure how long the effects of his vacation are going to last once I am back at the desk next week but I am trying not to think about that. Surely there is something to be said for living in the moment of bliss, and if bliss had a location it would be the south of France. I do know my stress will return when I am forced to consume a vegetable sold in a North American supermarket. But I’ll swallow that poor excuse for a food group when I come to it. And I am definitely going to avoid reading any journal called “Work and Stress,” that’s for sure.