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The end of vacation and the return to your daily routine and the usual responsibilities may cause uneasy emotions. Joanna Gutral, psychologist from SWPS University, explains how to deal with anxiety associated with the return to reality after holidays.

Apart from the actual time off work or school that includes relaxation or long awaited travel, vacation mode also includes the preparation and planning phase as well as the gradual return to daily life, once the vacation is finished. Each of these phases evokes different emotions.

Research conducted by Jeroen Nawijn from Erasmus University in 2010, indicates that people experience the largest happiness boost, during the planning and anticipation stage that precedes the proper vacation. Once the vacation is finished, people who had travelled report the same level of satisfaction as those who had stayed at home. However, those who did go away and had enjoyed new experiences, report an increased stress associated with the return to work after vacation. The longer and the more exciting the vacation, the stronger the feelings of anxiety and aversion towards the return to daily responsibilities.

The feelings of sadness and anxiety associated with the return to work or school after vacation are called “a post vacation blues” in professional literature.

Joanna Gutral, M.A.

Symptoms such as stress associated with professional duties, nostalgia, tiredness, sadness, and even loss of appetite may manifest in anyone who must switch from the vacation mode to the daily routine. The vacation effect of relaxation and regeneration helps people to de-stress and rest. However, the impact is often not sufficient to eliminate anxiety associated with new challenges. Moreover, the vacation period does not eliminate problems, such as an unsatisfying job or an inadequate salary. Therefore despite the temporary relaxation and relief from these issues, vacation does not eradicate the source of this type of stress.

Often times the waiting period before vacation is very long and when the long-awaited vacation ends, one must face another year of waiting for the next holiday opportunity. The realization of this fact may increase the stress and anxiety related to the return to daily routine.

5 Steps to Overcoming Post Vacation Blues

1. Accept the blues

The sadness related to the end of vacation and the return to work is normal. The effect of regeneration, a fresh perspective on things and new ideas resulting from the time of rest, may help you adjust to your daily life.

2. Create a Time Cushion

Plan to return home from your travels a day or two before the end of your vacation. You can use this time to organize your affairs and plan the upcoming tasks, so that you feel in control, on the first day back at work or school.

3. Get Enough Sleep

Some types of travel or vacation do not allow for sufficient physical rest, for example renovating your home or traveling by bicycle for two weeks. Parents of small kids, people who spent time in crowded and loud places or people who did not enjoy their vacation for any reason, may come back to work tired. It is a good idea to give yourself some time to regenerate, before the return to the daily routine.

4. Ease into your daily routine

The vision of hundreds of e-mails awaiting in your Inbox and numerous errands that have to be taken care of may cause anxiety. It is good to realize that the majority of these e-mails or errands will be irrelevant, once you come back from vacation. Therefore, it is best to check the backlogged e-mails starting from the most recent ones. When you feel overwhelmed with the backlog upon your return to work, prioritize and make an action plan. Taking action, prioritizing and planning will help you to feel in control again.

5. Plan your next vacation

Based on his research, Jeoren Nawijn suggests that the best remedy for the post vacation blues is planning the next vacation or at least the next weekend. This self-help method is very effective, as according to his research, the vacation planning stage provides the highest levels of happiness.

Programs in English
at SWPS University

258 joanna gutral

About the Author

Joanna Gutral – psychologist, doctoral candidate in the Interdisciplinary Doctoral Program at SWPS University, co-organizer of a social initiative „Mam Terapeutę” (I have a therapist).


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