How To Banish The Post Vacation Blues

Why is it that when you’ve finally started to believe that «hey, life really IS a beach», reality hits you in the face and you feel your stress levels increase and blood pressure rise? The contrasts between the daily grinds and a blissful vacation can seem stark, but if you take a couple of moments to prepare yourself, you can set yourself up for a smooth transition back to everyday life and skip the post-vacation blues altogether

The positive effects of vacations are transient and fade away as quickly as in the first week of  work resumption (1). Nonetheless, it’s scientifically proven that vacations are good for us (2). We occasionally need a change of scenery, some new input and a little relief from work in order to increase our overall health and sense of well-being. But what if you feel like you need another vacation after the one you just had; how will you feel when e-mails starts filling up your inbox or when you open your snail mailbox full of white envelopes (ie. bills)?

Here are some valid tips to avoid feeling too overwhelmed and help you cope with the transition back to everyday life.

Tidy home, tidy mind

Unpack! Don’t leave your suitcase or weekend bag on the floor bulging with dirty laundry – it will just keep reminding you that you are not on vacation anymore. Get right to it on the same day you get back from a trip and put the wash on immediately. Messy surroundings clutter your mind, so don’t stop with the suitcase; open your mail, pay your bills, clean your living quarters and make sure you have everything you need for the first few days of work in the fridge. This may seem trivial, but having things in order around you frees up your mind and leaves you with more energy for other tasks, like going back to school or work.

Remember your vacation reflections

Summer is a long, calm period in time that usually allows us to wind down and reflect on what our wants and needs in life are. Use the next few days to do some dreaming for the coming year before getting down to more strategic thinking and planning. Remember your vacation reflections when you go back to your everyday life; your thoughts, however good and wise, can be fleeting and easy to forget when life gets ahold of you. I suggest writing them down when they appear. If you don’t know where to start, just do some freewriting and you can always go back and extract the most important things later. Holding on to those summer dreams and reflections can be a useful motivation when approaching the fall.

Plan for a soft start

If it’s possible, start your first post-vacation work week on a Wednesday. This makes for a short week, which may seem a little unproductive, but you’ll avoid the shocking effect a full work week can give you.

Keep auto-replying

If you are a lady in demand it can be hard to direct your attention where it is most needed when e-mails keep clouding your mind. Keep your auto-reply on for a couple of days after your original vacation ended. This will buy you some time to get back into your routines and take some pressure off. You shouldn’t feel bad about this for one second, because starting out too hard is a sure way to increase your stress levels immensely. Let’s face it, if it really was that urgent they’d pick up the phone and call you.

Get a head start

Get your calendar out and go over the next few weeks to prevent any event, deadline or meeting from coming as a surprise. Then, on the first couple of days at work – arrive early, even if there is not that much to do. Getting a head start really gives you a superior feeling of being in complete control.

Treat yourself

Just after a lavish vacation? Yes, my friend! Just because summer vacation is over it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t enjoy yourself. Get together with a friend you haven’t seen over summer for after-work drinks, go out to lunch,check out the late-summer sales or buy yourself a new beach read to lengthen the summer feels.

Plan your next adventure

What better time to book your next adventure than in the middle of your post-vacation blues? This is a little bit in the “treat yourself”- category, but knowing that there is a reward waiting for you after a you have been working away for weeks can be all the motivation you need to face fall head on. If your vacation-funds have all been spent, at least set a date for a trip or some time off and plan something low budget. It could just be a day trip to the countryside, borrowing a friend’s cabin or being a tourist in your home town.

(1) De Bloom et al. (2010).Effects of vacation from work on health and well-being: Lots of fun, quickly gone.  Work and Stress 24(2). DOI: 10.1080/02678373.2010.493385 (2) Westman M & Etzion D.(2001). The impact of vacation and job stress on burnout and absenteeism. Psychol Health, 16:595–606
[Please feel free to share your thoughts and reflections in the comments section]

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Melina Meyer Magulas 
Contributor, Exercise Physiologist (MSc) and Lecturer

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Daria Shevtsova

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