After two years of a pandemic, ever-changing travel restrictions and mandated Covid-19 tests, the summer of 2022 signaled vacations would finally be back in vogue.
With most Covid-19 restrictions lifted, planning a vacation became easier and many trips that had previously been delayed for pandemic-related reasons were finally able to take place. But in practice, flight cancellations, worker shortages and general travel chaos have robbed many travelers of their long anticipated stress-free bliss. And for those lucky enough to have managed a smooth getaway, the return to reality is hitting even harder than usual.
Whatever your vacation story, here are five tips from the experts to help you deal with a case of the post-vacation blues.
1. Plan a buffer for when you come back
We often overload ourselves with a long list of household chores as soon as we get back home or jump straight into work at lightning speed which emphasizes the contrast between vacation and reality. Instead, if possible, take a day to transition before returning to work and minimize household chores by doing what you can before you go away, advises Dr. Andrea Bonior, licensed clinical psychologist and author of “Detox Your Thoughts.”
“I often see people having a really hard time with the post-vacation blues when it’s like whiplash – so last night I was on a beach and now I’m in the office – instead if possible try to plan a buffer day so you can exhale and have some time to just be able to readjust,” she says.
“Give yourself a little self-compassion,” adds Dr. Laurie Santos, Professor of Psychology at Yale University and host of The Happiness Lab podcast. “You don’t need to answer all the emails immediately. It’s okay to ease back into the grind, and the evidence suggests that people will be more understanding than you predict.”
2. Try to maintain a vacation mindset
“Remember that ending the vacation doesn’t mean ending the fun,” says Santos. “We can find ways to get a bit more of that travel feeling in if we continue that tourist mindset into life back home. Maybe try a new restaurant or take a walk through a new neighborhood.”
Dr. Tracy Thomas, a psychologist and emotional scientist, says it’s important to identify what it is that makes you feel good when you’re away or in your “vacation mentality” and try to make it part of your daily reality.
“It’s fascinating that what people will do on vacation they won’t do at home – if you’re getting a massage when you’re away, waking up to see the sunrise or walking around a town, try to do some of that when you come home.”
Thomas also suggests cooking some of the dishes you enjoyed while you were away to keep the experience going. “When I go to Italy and eat pasta pomodoro, probably for a good month after that when I get home, I keep making it or ordering it instead of letting that process fade out.”
3. Practice gratitude
“Take some time to replay your positive travel memories back,” Santos advises. You could make an album, journal or just remind yourself of all the good experiences you were able to have if you were lucky enough to get away.
“You may have heard the advice that you should invest in experiences not things. Turns out one of the reasons that’s the case is that experiences make for fonder memories than our materials purchases – we can get a happiness boost not just from experiencing a vacation, but from remembering it,” Santos adds.
As well as being grateful for what you had, try and practice gratitude in your daily life says Bonior, explaining that while gratitude is good for us, many people misunderstand what it means.
“People tend to think gratitude means you need to count your blessings for everything, you can’t be upset about anything, somebody else has it worse than you do so you should be grateful, but gratitude in reality means leaning into everything – being able to truly engage and recognize that we’re lucky but also not being afraid to acknowledge the dark spots.”
“True gratitude doesn’t mean you have to be happy and feel blessed all the time, it means to realize the whole life experience is something pretty amazing and I’m here for it,” she adds.
Numerous scientific studies have shown moderate to vigorous aerobic exercise is good for combating anxiety and depression. In fact, a study published in April in the journal JAMA Psychiatry, showed adults who did activities equivalent to 1.25 hours of brisk walking per week had an 18% lower risk of depression compared with those who did not exercise.
“Exercising doesn’t mean you won’t be depressed but it does helps mitigate it,” Bonior says, adding that exercise doesn’t have to be intense or look a certain way – even a walk can be a boost for your physical and mental health or dancing in your room she explains.
In addition, exercise is widely known to improve sleep, lower blood pressure, reduces stress and boost your mood – so although you may feel like moping around the house post-vacation, it’s a good idea to force yourself out and about for a mood inducing boost.
5. Acknowledge your feelings
Talk to others about how you feel, commiserate with other travelers or journal – it’s important to stay connected with friends and loved ones and not withdraw.
“The research shows that for us to be able to just articulate that we have a certain emotion, that makes that emotion feel less scary so we feel more in control. It also helps us avoid black and white thinking,” Bonior says, explaining that we can have multiple emotions at the same time like being sad but excited.
Of course if you’re feeling an overwhelming sense of dread about your routine or your job, it may signal a need for change or a revaluation of where you want to be. If the symptoms persist or get worse you may also want to seek out some professional help to address other underlying causes.
“If your vacation didn’t go so well, you can get a happiness boost here by trying to figure out what you learned,” says Santos. “The act of expressively journaling about what went wrong can help you figure out what insights you’ve gotten or how you’ve grown. At the very least, even the worst holidays can turn into funny stories that we can share with friends for a boost of social connection.”
Top photo credit: ALBERTO L. POMARES G./iStockphoto/Getty Images/iStockphoto