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The Post-Vacation Blues: Causes & Cures

Thinking about the post vacation blues

Considering how often people claim vacations are crucial to their wellbeing, you’d think there’d be a bit more sympathy when someone comes back to work singing the post-vacation blues. Instead, their grief is often met with insincere snorts followed by dismissive “I hear ya’s”. Most of us are guilty of that from time to time. But why? And especially when the shoe is often on the other foot once we return to work after vacation? Is it annoyance? Jealousy? Or do we fear that lending a genuine ear to a coworker mourning how much they miss the cliffs of Capri will make us look spoiled, immature, unreliable, and all the other awful failings we think our peers have ascribed to them? Maybe it’s that very same fear that accounts for countless others who do a good job of hiding their post-vacation blues.

The truth is that vacations are crucial to your wellbeing – so crucial, in fact, that a lack of vacationing has been linked to higher rates of heart disease in both men and women. As it turns out, it’s natural and healthy to take vacations, which is why coming back from vacation can seem so overwhelming. Despite their flippant name, the post-vacations blues are characterized by a flurry of unpleasant and potentially serious emotions, including stress, anxiety, fatigue, restlessness, distractedness, and even severe depression. But are we doomed to dread life after vacation every time we escape the everyday? Not necessarily – and taking the following advice can help ensure that.

Coping with and curing the post-vacation blues

  • De-clutter before you depart

    It’s a known fact that if your home or your workspace is a mess, you’re more likely to experience stress. This is true all the time, anytime, of course – not just before or after vacation. But it’s when you’re back from vacation that the clutter will really make you shudder. The mere sight of loose leaf doodles, dangling Post-its, runaway pens, scattered paperclips, and other debris can overstimulate you, making you feel that there’s more work to be done than there is and making it harder to find the things you need to do the work that actually needs to be done. There’s no sense in coming back from vacation to memos of matters past, especially when they’ll hinder your efforts to catch up. Clear away the clutter for a clean, orderly, and welcoming workspace upon your return.

  • Don’t worry, be happy

    A vacation is not a vacation if you’re working while you’re away – and that includes checking email and voicemail. It’s understandable that you don’t want to fall behind on your work, but it’s going to happen, at least a little bit, no matter what. Accept this and get as much done as you can before you leave. Then enjoy yourself and deal with work when the time’s right – after vacation.

  • Get into the groove

    If you’re off to a faraway paradise, come back with a couple of days left to re-acclimatize to your usual surroundings and to get over any jet lag. If you want, you can even take this time to catch up on emails and voicemails so there are no shockers your first day back at work. Also, once you’re back, try to do nothing but catch up for the first day or two. In fact, as long as you won’t get in trouble, you may want to keep your out-of-office on for those days.

  • The end is the beginning

    If you had a particularly enlightening experience on your vacation, remind yourself of it every day at work by keeping a picture or a souvenir at your desk. Some might argue that doing so could exacerbate your post-vacation blues. But if you feel that’ll be the case for you, take things a step further and incorporate something about your experience into your everyday life, such as learning the language of where you were or cooking cuisine from there. And remember: the end of one vacation is not the end of all vacations. The sooner you start planning your next one, the more time you’ll have to look forward to it, making the workdays fly by.

Chronic post-vacation blues

With all this talk about getting back into the swing of things after vacation, it’s easy to forget that a vacation should be a break, not an escape. If you’re consistently devoid of enthusiasm for your job and continually daydreaming about being somewhere else, then it may be time to think about taking a permanent vacation from where you currently work. At the end of the day, you still need to love your job to feel fulfilled – no matter how many vacations you take.

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