It’s mid-summer, and almost everyone I know is either on vacation or suffering from post vacation blues. The bliss of getting away from it all is often followed by the despair of returning to daily routine, right!
Vacation can feel like a bit of heaven on earth, followed by intense resistance as we struggle to return to our daily routine. Authentic living requires us to embrace and integrate these seeming opposites, instead of perpetuating the cycle through attachment and aversion.
Ultimately, vacation is a change in routine, not a lack thereof. My granny taught me this lesson early on in life. I’d get home from boarding school, exhausted from the rigid academic schedule and looking forward to some reprieve. But no such luck! My mother would wake me up at dawn the next morning with a cup of coffee and a long list of chores to do! When I complained to Gran, she smiled and said, “My girlie, vacation is a change of occupation, not a lack of occupation.”
Today I understand the wisdom of her words. Changing our daily routine is not only refreshing, it is essential for well-being. Breaking away gives us the opportunity to expand our viewpoints, experiences and skill sets. It can open our perceptions to entirely new possibilities. Studies in brain neurology have show that when the brain is exercised in ways outside the habitual scope of daily routine, it remains resilient and hence more resistant to dementia.
On the flip side, the very freedom of vacation can also contribute to a sense of post vacation blues when we return to our daily lives. From working with clients I have learned that there are three areas that contribute to post vacation blues: returning to a daily routine that somehow feels dissonant, coming back to piles of responsibilities that accumulated while you were gone, and leaving the relaxed, exciting or self-nurturing aspects of your vacation behind.
There are several things you can do to integrate aspects of your vacation into your daily life for ongoing enrichment while mitigating post vacation blues. Here are a few:
Deal with dissonance.
Pay attention to the deeper reasons WHY you might have difficulty returning to your routine. If you still experience post vacation blues after the jet lag has worn off and you’ve been back at work for more than a few days, perhaps there is a deeper reason for your reluctance. Stepping away from your routine may have offered you clarity on the fact that you have outgrown your current work situation, or that the work schedule you’ve been keeping leaves no space for work-life balance; or that your work demands are not aligned with your core values. If you experience any of these deeper sources of dissonance, it may be time for a work or career change.
Plan ahead for peace.
Post vacation blues can leave you feeling overwhelmed by projects, bills and responsibilities that piled up while you were gone. A bit of planning can go a long way to prevent the budget blues. Prepaying aspects of your vacation such as the hotel, flight or rental car will help whittle down credit card balances so you don’t get hit with the whole whammy upon returning. Arrange for a neighbor or student to handle basic chores while you are gone so you don’t return to a dead garden or piled-up chores – or my favorite, schedule someone to clean the house so you return to a clean, tidy home!
Schedule a buffer day at the end of your vacation so you have time to catch up with essentials after you get back. This step can help you avoid all kinds of stress in the event of flight delays, unexpected events or simply returning home exhausted.
Savor the experience.
In our rushed lives, we often forget that vacation consists of more than time away: the first phase involves planning and preparation; the second consists of the actual vacation experience, and the third involves review and integration of that experience into your life.
What were some of the cultural, culinary, experiential or educational highlights of your vacation? How can you integrate some of those aspects into your daily life for ongoing enrichment?
When you integrate positive aspects of your vacation into your daily life, you’ll continue to reap rewards from the time away. One of my clients returned from a trip to France and decided to finally fulfill a lifelong dream of learning French; another decided to start an educational charity after a trip to Africa.
Refresh your daily routine.
One of the most beneficial aspects of vacation has to do with the way it changes up our daily routine – just as my Granny taught me. This is hugely refreshing because it replaces the drudgery of daily life.
You can keep that sense of renewal alive by varying your daily routine at home, too! If your favorite part of vacation was breakfast on the balcony overlooking the mountains, then find a way to bring that mood to your meals at home. Was it the excitement of sightseeing? Most of us have never seen all the sights in our own regions, so plan some weekend getaways year-round.
When you use the joyful moments of your vacation experience as inspiration to freshen and enliven your daily routine, you’ll do more than banishing post vacation blues – you’ll find your everyday life enriched in amazing ways!
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