You’re getting your tan on at the beach. You’re living your Lord of the Rings fantasy on a mountaintop. Maybe you’re just catching a snooze on a couch. What matters: you’re on vacation.
But then, with a sudden jolt, the freedom you briefly tasted is snatched away. Jetlag ensues. The alarm clock goes off. You’re back under the fluorescent lights of your office. How do you bounce back?
Beating the post-vacation blues isn’t an easy task. But try these tricks and self-reminders and you’ll be well on your way.
Newsflash! Feeling weird after vacation is normal
Post-vacation blues, post-vacation depression, having trouble getting back into your routine, or even crying after vacation are all very common phenomena. Don’t believe us? Just ask Psychology Today or WebMD. They’re doctors.
The main cure is time, but with a few extra boosts, you can shrink that time down and be back to waking up with a smile on your face every morning.
Okay, we can’t totally promise that. But you’ll at least get rid of that nasty feeling of wishing you were somewhere else.
Plan to beat your blues before they start
It sounds painful: all you want to think about is the glorious vacay that awaits, not the possibility that it could ever end. But do some prep, and your post-vacation self will thank your pre-vacation self.
Plan for your return before you leave
Planning for getting back can be as simple as making a list of the projects you were in the middle of before you left and first tasks to tackle once you’re back. It’s easy to push everything out of your head while you’re away, so even a gentle reminder can help you get back on track.
Come up with a recovery strategy
If jetlag is involved, plan for extra sleep, or different hours if you have time zones to acclimate to.
If thousands of emails are involved, set aside some time on your calendar to trudge through those. (And make sure you write them clearly and assertively, no matter how bleh you feel.)
If you think you might be sad when you get back from your vacation, leave yourself positive notes. If you write them while you’re still in anticipation mode, the good vibes will rub off on your future self when it’s in grieving mode.
And if you feel like grieving: grieve. It’s all part of the recovery.
Allow yourself a mourning period
What’s the point of beating yourself up about being sad about being back from vacation? Acknowledge your need to wallow for a few days. And wallow well:
Give yourself leeway
Maybe you allow yourself that chocolate bar or just stare at the wall until your brain returns to solid form. Let yourself be sad for a bit. But give yourself a deadline, and then decide to feel better.
Have methods for cheering yourself up
Candy. Music video breaks. Animal pictures. Whatever gives you comfort, get it.
Hold on to your vacation
That is, hold on to the positive memories, but don’t cling to them for dear life. Here, as in everything, it’s important to find balance.
Be grateful for your vacation
Every time you catch yourself thinking “It sucks to be back,” change your mindset: think about your favorite memories from the trip, and remind yourself how happy you were at that moment.
And no, don’t sink into the pit of thinking how happy you were then compared to how miserable you are now. Just picture that great memory, and force yourself to feel some gratitude.
Integrate your trip into your regular life
That doesn’t mean pack your bags and move to Berlin, or make backpacking Peru your day job. It means you tack a picture of your favorite spot to the wall by your desk. Or learn how to cook the best dish you discovered while away. Or take a language class so next time you go to that place, you’ll be able to have a real chat. There are lots of ways to bring your vacation spot home with you.
Suck it up and let it go
Didn’t we just say “hold on to your vacation,” and now we’re all “let it go”? They’re not as different as you think. After all, you’ve done your mourning. You ate the chocolate and revisited your favorite ’90s vids. But at a certain point, you’ve got to stop wallowing and dive back in.
Find the fun in your routine
That morning cup of extra-special coffee. The coworker who always has something nerdy and unexpected to say (weird ideas for celebrating Star Wars Day, for instance). The sense of satisfaction when you wrap up an important project.
Sure, those aren’t as fun as exploring the lake region of Uganda or the Martian landscape of Iceland, but there’s a lot to be said for appreciating the little things.
Start thinking about your next vacation
Sure, it’s not the healthiest if you’re just living one trip to the next and existing as a business-casual zombie in between. But having something to look forward to can add an extra dose of motivation to where you are in the time being. Whether you start looking at flights or just do some image searches of potential spots, the daydream factor can give you a boost.
Live it up where you are
A good way to make sure you’re not just counting down the days until your next trip is to find new and exciting things in your own time zone. Crazy idea: fun and familiar things will do the trick, too.
Maybe there’s a pretty hike people have recommended, or a restaurant you haven’t tried, or a part of town you’ve never explored. On the familiar end of things, you can binge on your favorite TV show, make a reservation at a restaurant with your preferred comfort food, or schedule visits with all the friends you missed while you were away.
If you fill your calendar with things to look forward to, you could discover whole new worlds in your own backyard. Or on the flipside, find out that your yard is a pretty comfy place to be. The busier you are, the sooner you’ll get back into your routine—and actually start enjoying it again, too.
Remember Dorothy’s words of wisdom
That’s right: there’s no place like home. It’s certainly a thrill to get off the airplane and think “We’re not in Kansas anymore,” but there’s a lot of comfort in coming back to familiar surroundings. Notice the ones that make you happy, and savor them. Reminding yourself to appreciate your home can make even black-and-white reality seem like a Technicolor adventure.