Post Vacation Blues
10 Ways to Kick Those Post Vacation Blues
The vacations are over. Now what? If you’re like many, the post vacation blues begins to settle in and it hits like a Sunday morning hangover. While this syndrome doesn’t seem to be any more common than a simple complaint we all here upon returning to our normal daily lives, but it actually is a problem that has become such a problem that a recent study found that at least 43% of holiday travelers include at least one if not two extra days of scheduled time off of work or other appointments in their vacation planning.
Vacations are hugely beneficial for our mental and physical health, and both psychologists and physicians have devoted research to how travelers can make the positive effects last long after the vacation ends. Because, unfortunately, the good feelings can start disappearing before you’ve even boarded your flight home.
On vacations, we let go of daily stressors. Our blood pressure drops, concentration improves, we sleep more deeply and become distinctly more aware of our emotions and thoughts. In fact, according to the Framingham Heart Study and the American Medical Association, our blood pressure can fall so significantly while on vacation that it can stay down even after we’re back home. The risk of strokes and heart attacks is correspondingly lessened, too.
But as the vacation winds down, we all too often start to experience a looming sense of melancholy. And before we know it, our blood pressure is rising and our anxiety is returning. It’s a typical case of the post-vacation blues.
Fortunately, travelers can take deliberate steps during and after a vacation to prolong the feel-good (and good-for-you) effects of a leisurely getaway.
How to Beat those Post Vacation Blues
Buy experiences, not souvenirs
One key way to make the positive effects of a vacation last after you return home, according to the University of Chicago postdoctoral research fellow Amit Kumar and Cornell professor Thomas Gilovich, both psychologists, is to focus on making experiential “purchases” while on vacation, rather than shopping for material goods. These experiences become part of our personalities and can shape our outlooks.
In the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, Kumar and Gilovich wrote that “experiential purchases (many of which were travel-related) made people happier than material purchases — and this was explained by the fact that experiences provided more conversational value.”
Though traveling in and of itself is an experience, their research also suggests that spending money on tours and activities brings more emotional value than a suitcase full of souvenirs. So much as taking away someone’s ability to talk about an experience diminishes the satisfaction he or she derives from it, the pair found. Bragging rights, it turns out, count for something real after all.
“Imagine that you just returned from a week of hiking in the Sierras … or a week of sampling the restaurants, art galleries and theater offerings in New York City,” Kumar and Gilovich said. “How likely would you be to tell others about your trip? … Now imagine that you spent a similar sum of money on a home theater system, new furniture or some high-end clothing you have been eyeing. How likely would you be to tell others about these purchases?”
“A person may suffer from post vacation blues after returning home or to a normal routine from a long vacation, especially if it was a pleasurable one. The longer a trip lasts, the more intense the post vacation blues may be. This is because after the person returns home, they realize how boring and unsatisfactory their normal lifestyle routine is when compared to the activities they did while on their holiday/vacation. It is easier to overcome/adjust to a normal routine the shorter the trip was. Post vacation blues may result in tiredness, loss of appetite, strong feelings of nostalgia, and in some cases, depression. Jet lag may intensify the post vacation blues.”
In general, post vacation blues will wear off over time. It usually takes a few days, but in extreme cases the mood can last for several weeks before wearing off. Faster ways of treating post vacation blues are for the person to share their experiences with family and friends, or to look at photos and souvenirs.
Some may find comfort in re-living their holiday/vacation experiences; for example, if one really enjoyed jet-skiing during their holiday, they may purchase their very own jet-ski for personal use. Another well known method of curing post vacation blues is to plan or book the next vacation, this offers a distraction and also provides the person something to look forward to.
Even though the holiday’s are over, it doesn’t mean that there aren’t still great travel deals available. FlightGurus.com has some great travel specials to help you get over those post vacation blues. Let’s look at a few ideas below.
The University of Chicago’s Kumar agrees: “Even though the vacation can seem fleeting — that is, our trips seem to come and go in a flash — we also ‘consume’ our anticipation of our travel experiences and derive utility from discussing them with others after the fact.”
Don’t discount what you just did on your vacation, but when you start planning your next getaway, start with a straightforward list of how you’ll do things even better next time — or even something as simple as the places you want to go or the activities you want to do.
Psychologists Roy Baumeister of Florida State University and E.J. Masicampo of Wake Forest, studied what’s called the Zeigarnik effect, the tendency to remember incomplete or interrupted tasks more clearly than those we have finished. They found that planning (making a list, for example) can free your mind of intrusive thoughts and leave you feeling clearheaded and, frankly, more earnest about making your next trip a reality.
“Committing to a specific plan for a goal may therefore not only facilitate attainment of the goal, but may also free cognitive resources for other pursuits,” the researchers said. Even if that means tackling your untouched inbox, you’ll be able to do so with less distraction or anxiety.
Consider yourself lucky
Bear in mind that if you get to take a vacation, you’re one lucky human being: More than half of Americans don’t use all of their paid vacation days, and last year some 24% of US workers didn’t use any vacation days at all. Being grateful that you were able to break away from the office is a good place to start. It will help you appreciate the time away and, as a result, make you feel less disappointed that you have to come back to reality.
In the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, psychologists Robert Emmons, of the University of California, Davis, and Michael McCullough, of the University of Miami, said that their research had found “a conscious focus on blessings may have emotional and interpersonal benefits.” Being grateful for the privilege of breaking up a tired routine is a good place to start when thinking about your time spent away. So enjoy what you experience, and try to make it last.