Good news: You just went on the ~adventure of a lifetime~. Bad news: Adjusting back to real life has you riding the struggle bus hard.
“When you’re on vacation, the logistics of everyday life are on the back burner,” explains Silicon valley-based holistic psychologist Pam Costa. “There’s a re-entry into the routine of everyday that can be really difficult.”
The pain/sorrow/depression that accompanies The Return is colloquially classified as the “post-vacation blues” or a “vacation hangover.”
Unless you’re a travel ’grammer, this re-entry is an inevitable part of travel. Here are eight therapist-approved tips to make the transition back to real life less bumpy.
I know — it sounds counterintuitive. But while touching down on Sunday night is the best way to get AMVAP (as much vacation as possible), it’s also the best way to make your first day back a nightmare.
“A quick turnaround from vacation to work denies you the ability to recover from the vacation high before returning to work,” explains Courtney Glashow, LCSW, a psychotherapist and the founder of Anchor Therapy LLC. “It’s best to give yourself some time to transition back into your routine.”
Her recommendation: Build in a 2-day buffer between the end of vacation and the restart of work. After long-ass trips, this can be especially important.
“If you are flying to another country for a 2-week trip, you should leave on a Friday and return on a Friday 2 weeks later,” says Glashow. “This gives you a full weekend to run errands, catch up on sleep, and slowly adjust back to your normal life.” Ditto for trips where there’s a time zone change.
If you’re not willing to sacrifice trip length, fineee. Just quit it with the Sunday to Monday morning red-eyes, OK?
Congrats! You actually (or mostly) unplugged while you were away. Your travel companions and mental health thank you.
Unfortunately, upon your return, your inbox will become something of an archaeological site: some very, very important stuff buried under a whole lot of junk.
Your move: Dig through it. And that means giving yourself time to dig through it.
Glashow suggests using the first day back to catch up on email and only agreeing to attend the Actually Important Meetings (however you define that). This might mean planning ahead and blocking off the first half of your day so nobody books it. Get those boundaries in, stat.
“Abruptly diving back into your workload is going to make you more stressed than you were before you left on your trip,” says Glashow, “especially if your workload piled up while you were away, which it likely did.” Fair point.
You could let your stinky clothes taunt you from the hamper — or not.
“I know people who pack all their dirty clothes into a garbage bag in their luggage before flying back and then drop that bag off at the laundromat on the way home from the airport,” says Costa.
Feels indulgent? Maybe. But as Costa says, “We all have that one chore that should get done when we get home… that we hate to do.” So, if washing and folding your clothes is your krypto-nightmare, it’s worth it.
If your hate-to-do-it chore is grocery shopping, Costa says, get your food delivered for the week after you come back. Trust: Having a clean and well-stocked fridge/pantry can go a long way in making the end of vacation suck less.
Oh, and please do yourself (read: your nose) a favor: Before you leave, toss any produce/leftovers/etc. that might stink up your fridge and your whole humble abode while you’re gone.
Whether it was a booze cruise, an all-inclusive beach resort, or something less obviously indulgent, chances are you ate and drank more and/or differently while you were away.
Do: Nosh as normal.
“Returning to your normal routine, meal routine included, will improve your energy levels and help you feel a sense of normalcy after vacation,” says Glashow. Ah, chicken and broccoli, how you’ve been missed.
Between the flying, the alcohol, and the sun, you’re more likely to become dehydrated when you travel.
“Being dehydrated is one of the main culprits behind those actual hangover feelings,” says Glashow. So double up on H2O when you’re back at home. Keep going until you’re ready to say “so long, farewell” to any lingering headache, dry mouth, and generalized fatigue.
The study found that couples who fooled around at home were more engaged and happier at work. And that’s something someone wallowing in post-vacation blues could benefit from, no?
While that study looked specifically at couples, odds are that solo hanky-panky can have the same effect.
“Before you leave vacation, make sure you have a plan for future pleasure,” says Costa. Netflix and chill? Goat yoga followed by goat cheese? Girls’ night out? Whatever it is, get somethingggg on the books that you’ll look forward to, she suggests.
So it’s been 2 weeks since you touched back down and you’re still feeling off? Maybe you really should leave [insert boring job] and move to [insert exciting locale] full time!
More likely, your post-vacation hangover has turned into PVD (post-vacation depression).
Both experts recommend ringing up a mental health professional if you’re really struggling to adjust back to life. “A trained expert has the tools to help you work through those feelings and come up with a game plan,” Costa says.
Gabrielle Kassel (she/her) is a queer sex educator and wellness journalist who is committed to helping people feel the best they can in their bodies. In addition to Healthline, her work has appeared in publications such as Shape, Cosmopolitan, Well+Good, Health, Self, Women’s Health, Greatist, and more! In her free time, Gabrielle can be found coaching CrossFit, reviewing pleasure products, hiking with her border collie, or recording episodes of the podcast she co-hosts called Bad In Bed. Follow her on Instagram @Gabriellekassel.