How to Cope With the Post-Vacation Blues

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Freelance Writer & Nonprofit Information Officer
July 20, 2024 at 6:49AM UTC

What are the post-vacation blues?

The post-vacation blues are a collection of unpleasant symptoms that can plague us when we return from a vacation, trip, or holiday. The longer the trip, the more likely we may be to experience these symptoms when we return to “normal life.” WebMD explains the vacation process as “The nerve-wracking blastoff [that] takes place only after weeks of careful planning. Then a few days of serenity and peace are followed by a harrowing re-entry.” 
When we spend a long time planning a vacation, then completely upend our pace of life to experience the vacation, the re-entry can be difficult. Not only are we no longer on vacation, but we don’t even have the excitement and drive that we had leading up to the vacation. Symptoms include feeling down, unmotivated or lost; losing sleep or sleeping too much; losing appetite or overeating; trouble concentrating; feeling uneasy, on edge or irritable: and having a sense of overwhelming nostalgia.

Why does it happen?

According to WebMD, “The old routine [after a vacation] may feel like the force of gravity after days of weightlessness -- a familiar burden that suddenly feels harder to bear […] A vacation meant to be relaxing actually can create post-vacation stress.” Especially if you go into a vacation with goals — writing a chapter of your book, going through all your unread emails, finally reading that article your friend sent you, or reflecting on what you want next in life — returning home can be stressful. Even if you accomplished one or some of your vacation goals, there are suddenly new requirements on your plate: getting caught up at work, unpacking, and laundry. If a vacation goal did get left on the table, it might seem less possible than ever that you will have the time to complete it now that you have twelve new things to get done. There are a lot of reasons post-holiday blues occur, but here are some of the most common culprits:
  • Your “normal” life seems unfulfilling considering the adventure you just had.
  • You didn’t get enough rest to justify all the catching up you now have to do.
  • You no longer have something to “look forward to.”
  • You have spent more time with some people (family, for example) and less time with others (friends, etc.).
  • Any day-to-day satisfaction you receive from your work has been absent.

How to get over the post-vacation blues.

1. Plan a smooth return.

According to WebMD, the number one thing you can do to keep the post-vacation blues at bay is to plan a smooth return. Give yourself a buffer before you return to work so that you can get a few things done before adding new work tasks to your mental planner. During this buffer, unpack. Leaving luggage around and having suitcases half-unpacked not only makes your home feel cluttered, but it's also a constant reminder that you are no longer on vacation. Leaving dirty laundry in suitcases on the floor for a few days after returning home can remind you that you no longer have the time or energy to get the small things in order, and this is incredibly disheartening. In addition to giving yourself time to unpack and planning your re-entry into work and everyday life, have a few exciting things planned for the week after your return from a vacation. Go out to dinner with a friend or take a day trip to the spa. As long as the plans don’t feel like stressful obligations, they will keep you looking forward with excitement instead of looking back with nostalgia.

2. Track sleep.

There are a few variables that can really affect your mood post-vacation. According to Michael Breus, Ph.D., and author of “Good Night: The Sleep Doctor's 4-Week Program to Better Sleep and Better Health” on WebMD, “sleep, alcohol, and kids tend to be interrelated” when it comes to vacationing and returning from vacation. Add jet lag onto this and coming back home after a vacation can leave you in a greater sleep deficit than you might imagine. Be cognizant of these factors and give yourself time to catch up on sleep. Even the happiest and healthiest people can start to develop post-vacation blues if they are deprived of sleep.

3. Plan things to look forward to.

You don’t want to start planning your next vacation as soon as you get home, tempting as it might be. Planning your smooth return is important, but don’t stop there. After you have been home for a week or two, ask yourself if you are still looking forward to any upcoming events or activities. If not, see if you can put a few things on the calendar that will make you smile. It could be checking out a new exercise class, a day trip to the mountains, or simply having a drink with friends. Plan things that will enrich your life before planning new ways to escape from it. Planning projects and ways to declutter or organize your work space is a great way to invest in your life and simultaneously have something to look forward to.

This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of Fairygodboss.

What’s your no. 1 piece of advice for conquering the post-vacation blues? Share your answer in the comments to help other Fairygodboss members!

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