You gaze with disgust at the mountains of dirty laundry, tossed casually next to the half-unpacked suitcase. You feel fidgety – unable to settle into your normal routines – life seems grey, and you are dreading work. Chances are you have a condition that hits most eager travellers: the post-holiday blues. Today is about how to move past them to get back into the swing of regular life.

1. Recognise that feeling flat is normal part of returning

My mother often said that “re-entry is difficult”. No matter how much fun (or not) the holiday was, no matter how well-adjusted you are, and no matter how wonderful your life is, it’s still hard to come off that rhythm of glorious freedom; exciting new sights, sounds, and scents; and invigorating activities. Or put another way, it’s hard to again subject yourself to the constraints of mundane have-to-do tasks and “normal” reality. There is a sense of loss. You may feel sad about the good things that have come to an end, but know that these blues won’t last too long (or if they do, it’s regular depression, and you should see your GP or counsellor).

2. Plan for a smooth return

Thinking you can land at 6:00am and be at work at 8:00am is not good planning. Rather than feeling delighted that you squeezed every minute out of your holiday, you are likely to feel overwhelmed at work with the thousands of emails, your now-cluttered inbox, and looming project deadlines. Much better to come back a day or two early, concentrate on getting over jet lag, and arrive at your desk refreshed and ready. Also, is there anything you can set up before you go – some project or task which is more fun or easier than your other work – which you can do first, to “get your feet wet” and ease back into the work thing? In terms of family, it helps if the kids can meld back into the comfortable familiarity of daily life before facing school.

3. Invite yourself back into your normal home life

How welcome do you feel with all that laundry and your still-full suitcase gleaming malevolently at you? For weeks, you found out how little you needed by living out of your suitcase. Now is the chance to implement a similarly de-cluttered, simpler life at home. So do the laundry, unpack the luggage, de-clutter your house and clean out your fridge. In other words, make your home more spacious and thus more welcoming; then it will be clear where to hang those oh-so-special items you bought to help keep the holiday memories alive.

4. Start thinking in terms of “the holiday cycle”

The holiday doesn’t have to end just because your plane has safely gotten you back home. Take a broader view: you are merely in a different part of an ongoing vacation cycle, and now is the time to explore how the holiday can come home with you. What new foods might you learn to cook that you tasted while away? What new activities might you take up after trying them while away: stand-up paddling anyone? This part of the cycle also calls for sharing what you did while away, so program in time to set up your Facebook photo album – or for those of you who like the feel of the real deal – print out some of your favourite snaps and get them into a physical album or photo frames. Your friends and family might not find your photos as exciting as you found your holiday, but chances are they will enjoy seeing some of the shots, and it is healing for you to organise and share them. Taking this step also helps prepare you to take the next step in the holiday cycle: planning your next trip!

5. Take care of yourself

Hopefully your holiday afforded you the luxury of time to be physically active and the bandwidth to notice how you are eating. For many, though, holidays are a time of splurging on rich foods and drinks, lying around on beaches, and disrupting sleep routines through alcohol, travel, and burning the candle at both ends. The remedy? Not as hard as it seems. Think about it like this:

  • All the eating out of the holidays may have increased the yearning of you and your family for simple, wholesome, home-cooked meals; make the most of this to get back into a healthy food regimen
  • If you have been eating or overeating with little physical movement, your body may be screaming at you to do something: anything! Again, this is innate wisdom from your body telling you that it will be a pleasure to get back on track (pick activities you like in order to ease back into regular exercise); following this tip will also help re-establish healthy sleep habits
  • Keep enthusiasm high by finding/creating some fun things to look forward to (note Point 4); it keeps you more in the holiday mindset of “What fun thing shall we do today?” and avoids re-entering ruts you were in pre-holiday. So, when are they offering that dance class you always wanted to take?

The post-holiday blues “go with the territory” of holidaying, but through good planning and deliberately importing into regular life some of the things which make holidays magical you can stay pumped until the next “All aboard” call!

Written by Dr Meg Carbonatto B.S., M.A., and Ph.D.

This article was originally published in Asteron Life’s Balance Blog. AIPC regularly contributes to Balance’s wellbeing blog category.