Post vacation depression is defined by three days to two weeks after a vacation where one experiences varied symptoms of depression (though it’s not a clinical term). They may feel a sense of relief to have made it home safely, but still have concurrent feelings of grief because life will return to routine. While you won’t always be able to avoid post vacation depression, you can manage it in healthy ways.1
Symptoms of Post Vacation Blues
Experiencing post-vacation depression (or post vacation blues) can be difficult. You may find yourself daydreaming about your vacation, obsessively scrolling through the pictures you took, or impulsively looking up flights to book your next getaway. It can be easy to equate vacations with peace, rejuvenation, and an escape from responsibility.
Returning to your source of stress whether it’s home, work, or school, can feel depressing and can also increase feelings of anxiety.2 Post-vacation depression can be an indication that you need more tools to healthily manage stress in your daily life.
Symptoms of post vacation depression can include:
- Being easily irritated or upset
- Difficulty concentrating or focusing
- Trouble sleeping
- Obsessively looking for your next vacation
- Intense feelings of sadness
- Work-related depression
- Lack of motivation
- Mental exhaustion
- Anxiety about going back to work
How to Deal With Post Vacation Depression
After vacation, depression can become difficult to deal with; however, there are healthy ways to manage symptoms and deal with lack of motivation. These methods include building a transition period into your return to “real life,” documenting your trip with photos or a journal, cleaning your house before you leave, and making a self-care plan in advance.
If you’re in a funk, here are seventeen tips to deal with post vacation blues:
1. Build in an Extra Transition Day Before Going Back to Work
Travel can be unpredictable and you never know when there will be an unexpected delay. Consider giving yourself an extra day of “vacation” at home so you can rest and catch up on any tasks you need to do before returning to work.
2. Document Your Trip With Pictures & Journaling
Consider getting a photo album and printing out the pictures from your trip. Creating a scrapbook of your memories can be comforting and soothing, too.4 You’ll be able to recount your happy vacation memories in future.
3. Clean Your House Before Leaving
It’s hard coming home from vacation but it’s even harder coming home to a list of household tasks to complete. Coming back to a clean house can also give you a sense of peace.5 Make the extra effort to do some housekeeping before you leave for vacation so you can rest and relax when you arrive home.
4. Make a Self-Care Plan
Take a few minutes to plan activities or practices you can implement during the week you return from vacation. A relaxing bath, warm beverage, good book, or other self-care activities can help you manage exhaustion and post vacation depression.6
5. Focus on Getting Enough Sleep
It’s easy to downplay the importance of sleep, but it’s challenging to be productive when you don’t feel well rested. Practice giving yourself an 8-hour window to create a restful environment and wind down to sleep.
6. Buy Meaningful Souvenirs
When you’re on vacation, consider bringing something memorable home. It may not be expensive, but it should remind you of the experience.78 For example, ornaments, magnets, and coffee mugs are great souvenirs that don’t take up a lot of luggage space.
7. Seek Additional Support
Schedule time to catch up with a friend or reach out to someone you haven’t talked to in a while. Having social support can be beneficial for your mental and physical health.3 Also, consider talking to a prescriber about the possibility of taking medication if your symptoms last longer than six weeks.
8. Utilize Employee Benefits Like an EAP
Many full-time positions offer some type of Employee Assistance Program (EAP). This gives you the opportunity to talk to a licensed mental health therapist for 3 to 6 solution-focused therapeutic sessions.9 Contact your human resources department to find out about the process of getting a referral.
9. Validate Your Emotions
Manage your internal dialogue and practice some self-compassion if you’re feeling depressed after vacation. Give yourself some encouragement, too.10 The change of pace from being on vacation to being confronted with the stresses of your daily life can be difficult. Give yourself permission to feel.
10. Practice Mindfulness
Starting a meditation practice and incorporating grounding techniques into your daily routine can be a healthy way to manage stress.11 Additionally, it can help bring you back to the present moment and improve your focus and concentration.
11. Take PTO Days
You may be experiencing post vacation blues because you feel burned out. Consider taking time off from work more frequently.12 Take an extended weekend every other month or tack on an extra day or two to a holiday week.
12. Use Time Blocks
Create a plan for what you want to accomplish and set time aside to complete the tasks you can’t avoid. Prioritize the most important things and accomplish those tasks first.
13. Create a Vacation Fund
Consider putting aside a certain percentage of your income into a savings account specifically for vacation. While it doesn’t need to be a large amount, the funds will add up if you don’t give yourself easy access to the account.13 Ideally it needs to be an automatic transfer so you’re not thinking about the money you’re “missing.”
14. Plan Ahead for the Future
Think about how many days you want to take off in a year and use a calendar to plan it all out. If major holidays are the most important, schedule your time off around them. If you prefer traveling at non-peak times, pick some weekends or days that work for your schedule.
15. Take Inventory of Your Goals
Reflect on what traveling means to you and how it contributes to your emotional well-being. Maybe it’s time to dedicate more time and resources towards an activity that genuinely brings you joy and fulfillment.
16. Focus on the Small Things
Consider adding an activity or outing during your vacation that is more service oriented. Volunteer your time or services to a non-profit organization that has a cause you believe in.14 This can provide a healthy perspective on some of the positive aspects of your life.
17. Create a Ritual
Create an activity around returning home from vacation that makes you feel good.14 Whether you create a special meal or add vacation pictures to a scrapbook, it gives you a tradition to remember the time that you had on vacation.15
If you experience post-vacation depression, it doesn’t mean that something’s wrong with you. Exploring what helps you manage it in a healthy way can mean the difference between going into a deeper depression or adjusting back into your normal routine. If you don’t know where to start, consider finding a therapist in an online directory.
For Further Reading
Here are additional resources: