5 Tips To Avoid Post-Vacation Depression

Published on: April 14, 2012 | Last Updated on May 3, 2020

Post-vacation depression happens to many of us…

I’m just unpacking and unwinding from three weeks away from home, a wonderful mix of vacation and business in Baja, Mexico. Vacations are energizing and mood-enhancing although research suggests these positive effects aren’t long-lasting. One adverse consequence of going on a vacation: Having to leave Paradise to come home. In fact, a small proportion of travelers return home with an acute case of post-vacation depression.

The letdown is understandable. Whether your vacation includes a challenging hike or ski adventure, a visit to a cultural mecca, a relaxing river cruise, or a balmy beach getaway, when travelers go away, they’re generally doing what they want to do—-rather than what they have to do.

Re-entry usually entails getting back to the everyday hassles of doing laundry and catching up with bills and/or getting back to the grind of work. This can be a jolt to the mind and body, especially when it’s exacerbated by jet lag and fatigue.

Some of the signs of post-vacation depression include:

  • feelings of lethargy
  • lack of motivation
  • trouble focusing on tasks
  • sleep difficulties; and
  • ruminating about your recent trip

Ironically, the more you enjoyed your vacation and the longer you were away, the more likely you’ll be to feel the blues upon your return.

One study reported last year in the Journal of Organizational Behavior found that while vacations help burnout and improve well-being for the short-term, a “fade-out effect” usually sets in within a month.Another study in Work and Stress suggests that the fade-out can take place even more rapidly, within a week after resumption of work.

Here are 5 tips to lengthen the afterglow of a great vacation and to ward-off post-vacation blues:

1) Ease back in

Don’t take a red-eye that gets you back home the same morning you need to be at your desk or fly home in the midst of a holiday weekend—if you can avoid it. Build some slack time into your travel schedule so you can make an easier post-vacation transition. Don’t set your expectations too high for getting everything done immediately upon your return.

2) Take a few moments to revel in what you’ve come home to

Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like your home. Don’t minimize the joys of sleeping in your own bed and being able to sip your morning Joe, in your favorite mug, exactly as you like it. Perhaps, you’ll feel happy about returning to your favorite pet or a comfy easy chair. You may take great pleasure in finally ditching your suitcase and being able to reconnect with friends, neighbors and co-workers.

You also may find that you have more time for yourself when you get home. This can be a perfect opportunity to evaluate your life choices and move forward. There are many possibilities: You might continue your education and think about new careers directions–perhaps taking an accelerated 1-year bsn online. Or you could pick up a new hobby, maybe even developing an interest that derives from your travels, like cooking. There are many ways to make your home life something you love to come back to!

3) Give in to reminiscences

Organize your digital photographs and even print a few of them. Keep a diary or write about your travels. Call or email someone you’ve met along the way. Since it isn’t likely that your friends or colleagues will be as eager to hear about your adventures as you’ll be to speak about them, hang out on online travel forums with like- minded people who want to share their own experiences being where you were (or who are hoping to get there.)

4) Bring a piece of your vacation home

Did you particularly enjoy a certain cuisine or special dish while you were away? Perhaps, you can find a restaurant in your neighborhood that serves it, or you can f ind the ingredients to cook it at home. You can also rent a movie or buy a book that is set in the place where you traveled to re-live vivid memories, or make “side- trips” reading about the placed you missed. Perhaps, you saw something new or learned something that can inspire changes in your life.

5) Plan your next trip

Research suggests, too, that the positive effects of vacations, in terms of health and well-being, can be easily replenished with frequent boosters.If you’re able to take frequent short vacations through the year (even as brief as a day at a park or a museum, or a weekend visit to another city), give yourself something to look forward to.And start saving your time and money for the next big one.

What do you do to maintain the “glow” after a great vacation? 

Update from the New York Times (June 28, 2015) – Tips for Keeping That Post Vacation Feeling Post

  • Reply
    Psychology of Travel: Reducing the stress of hotel stays - More Time to Travel
    March 30, 2014 at 8:47 am

    […] 5 Tips to avoid post-vacation depression […]

  • Reply
    Janice Chung
    August 22, 2016 at 1:53 pm

    Great advice I TRY to follow and I think I’m getting better at it after returning home from too many trips a little down. I think we (I) minimize #2—-the pleasures of sleeping in one’s own bed and waking up to your own brand of coffee! I’ll have to remember that next time.

  • Reply
    Carole Terwilliger Meyers
    August 22, 2016 at 7:16 pm

    Good suggestions, all. I am always happy to return to my nest, my bed, my cat. I relive my vacation with photos. Organizing them after a trip brings me immense pleasure.

  • Reply
    Donna Janke
    August 22, 2016 at 7:17 pm

    All good tips. I’ve not been very good in the past at easing back in, but am learning to do that more. And there is a lot to be said about enjoying the comforts of home. Time away helps me appreciate them more.

  • Reply
    The GypsyNesters
    August 22, 2016 at 7:25 pm

    As long as we are always doing number 5 there doesn’t seem to be any problem. 😉

  • Reply
    Carol Colborn
    August 23, 2016 at 9:38 pm

    #3 and #5 are what we do a lot of! Once we move from an RV to a home, we will also bring part of our vacation back home!

  • Reply
    Suzanne Fluhr
    August 24, 2016 at 3:12 am

    I’m usually only looking forward to returning home to our dog. It’s too bad that so many great trips have to end with flights from hell to get back home. This, unfortunately, starts to dissipate the vacation glow too soon. Don’t worry. As Ryan Lochte would say, I’m over exaggerating.

  • Reply
    Sue Reddel
    August 24, 2016 at 12:42 pm

    Great tips Irene. We often try to find the foods we enjoyed on our trip at home when we return. We’re lucky we live in Chicago where there’s plenty of cultures to choose from.

  • Reply
    Patti Morrow
    August 29, 2016 at 9:16 am

    Really great tips here. When I first started traveling, I would start dreaming and planning my next trip when I got home, and that really helped.

  • Reply
    Karen Warren
    August 29, 2016 at 9:48 am

    I always find that one of the worst things is that you get back into your routine too quickly and forget that you’ve been away at all! Sorting through your photographs is a good way of remembering and, like you, I like to bring back recipes to try at home.

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