Research supports the notion that vacations boost overall life satisfaction, improve sense of health, reduce exhaustion, increase overall wellbeing, and reduce burnout or mental fatigue. When we truly unplug, we also boost creativity and productivity in the time that follows. We even reap psychological benefits prior to the trip as we rev up excitement during the planning and packing phases. Vacations also offer benefits once we’ve returned home and assimilated into our everyday pace again – a process which can last up to four weeks!
But this post-vacation time is also known to cause travelers additional stress. It can even raise stress levels higher than pre-vacation. Post-vacation time is often referred to as the fade-out period, when the benefits of vacations slowly dissolve. This is why we have to be proactive and put in place a well-thought-out plan to reduce or eliminate post-vacation whiplash altogether, allowing us to transition smoothly back into our pre-travel pace and even extend the healthy benefits of vacationing. Here are some tips to help:
Block your calendar. For the first two to four days after returning to work, block your mornings, for example, and save that time for catching up on messages and looking things over, rather than diving right into your next project or attending meetings. If you can, try to schedule activities and meetings that feel energizing in the week following a vacation. Finally, be sure to block your calendar for lunch daily (30 minutes to an hour) for the first two weeks after a trip to ensure you have a break. These tips can also apply if you are a stay-at-home parent, caregiver, etc.
Arrange leisure activities. Science shows scheduling post-vacation leisure activities, like golfing or hiking, helps prolong the benefits of the vacation further. It’s even more beneficial if the activities focus on relaxation, such as a massage appointment or an afternoon at the pool.
Reduce home stress with a “minimal-effort” plan. Tidy up and clean the house prior to your trip; make sure your everyday laundry is put away so it doesn’t compound with vacation clothing; create an Instacart order with the groceries you’ll want when you return and schedule the delivery the day you return; consider hiring a lawn crew for the week you return to remove another item from the to-do list; or plan ahead to reduce the effort for any chore you dread upon return.
Whether you’re getting ready for winter travel or looking ahead to next summer already, consider investing in some planning time to help your next post-vacation transition to be as smooth and healthy and possible.
“How to Avoid Post-Vacation Stress,” Shana B. Tiayon, greatergood.berkeley.edu , July 19, 2023.
“Why You Should Take More Time Off From Work,” Emma Seppala, greatergood.berkeley.edu, Aug. 10, 2017.