Traveling is an amazing part of our lives. It can give us the relaxation we need, new wondrous experiences, and exciting adventures. The vacations we take are supposed to make us happy, but once they’re over, they can leave us overwhelmingly depressed. This is what is known as the post-vacation blues or post-vacation depression. However, as difficult as it might seem there are ways to avoid it and cope with post-vacation depression.
What is Post-Vacation Depression?
Simply put, post-vacation depression is the negative symptoms and feelings an individual experiences when returning home from a trip. This can vary from feeling sad, tired, or anxious. Whether it’s an amazing vacation or one that wasn’t so great, these emotions can occur. The feelings look similar to clinical depression or anxiety and can be extremely difficult to deal with.
- Lack of motivation
- Lack of focus
- Struggles with sleep
While post-vacation depression isn’t classified as a mental health condition, it has been recognized for decades, more so in the past few years. There’s no single reason for it, causes can range from returning to stress at home or work to unhappiness in regular life. Though there are no concrete studies yet, it’s estimated that the challenging symptoms associated with the post-vacation blues can last up to two weeks.
The fact of the matter is, post-vacation depression is very real, and more common than you think. A poll found that 1 in 5 Americans have experienced the post-travel blues. It’s normal to feel a little down or upset at the end of a vacation, and many people do, but when the symptoms go on and are a bit more extreme, it’s considered post-travel depression.
Mental Health and the Post-Vacation Blues
It’s important to watch for post-vacation depression if you already suffer from mental health issues, like myself. Conditions such as depression and anxiety can trigger and exacerbate the intense negative emotions associated with the post-travel blues. In the past, after coming home from a vacation, the sorrow I felt set off a two-week period of depression that made it difficult to work or focus on anything. I’ve even battled panic attacks while on vacation because I was prematurely upset about the vacation coming to an end.
This particular episode prompted me to want to write about this subject which has only recently been more openly discussed. If you are dealing with depressive episodes or anxiety attacks that persist or worsen, please reach out to a therapist or medical professional.
Disclosure: I am not a licensed psychologist, therapist, or medical professional. This post is based solely on my opinions and experiences with mental health and post-vacation depression.
How to Avoid Post-Vacation Depression
Clean Up Your Space Before Going Away
Nothing is worse than coming home from a wonderful trip and finding a mess to clean up. On top of returning to everyday life obligations, and catching up with anything missed at work or school, now there’s cleaning to handle. You might even find yourself dreading returning home while still on vacation knowing that chores await you. It’s already difficult to leave paradise or an adventure, but realizing there’s a mess at home will make it that much harder and in turn can lead to post-vacation depression. Instead, take the time to tidy up before going away. Coming back to a clean home feels good! Not only will it be a comfortable place to be in again, but there’s also less to deal with.
Make Time to Relax While on Vacation
Travel can mean different things. However, whether it’s sightseeing in a new country or city, having an adventure in a national park, or cruising across the sea, you should devote some time to spend relaxing. Even with a packed itinerary, there are always pockets of time to find for recharging. Ultimately, coming home refreshed and relaxed after a trip can help keep the blues away.
Schedule Plans for When Your Return
Before leaving for your vacation, schedule fun plans in advance for when you’re back. It can be anything from a simple dinner with friends to an exciting date night with your partner. Knowing that these plans await you gives you something immediate to look forward to once you’ve returned from your vacation. No matter what the plans are, having things you’re excited about is key!
Take an Extra Day Off of Work (If Possible!)
If you’re able to, a way to avoid the post-vacation blues is to take an extra day off of work for when you return from your trip. I fully recognize what a privilege this can be, especially in America with limited paid time off, so it completely depends on your benefits. If you have the additional time, an extra day provides the space to breathe before returning to everyday life. When I can take a day off after getting home from a vacation, I spend that time relaxing and unpacking. It’s helpful to reconnect with your home and take the time to adjust before jumping into work or life’s obligations immediately after time away.
Set Healthy Habits
Keeping your mind and body healthy before going away on vacation helps curb negative emotions in all aspects of life. It’s good practice while on your trip as well, although it’s important to enjoy and splurge too, as long as there’s balance. This includes exercise, eating nutritious meals, meditating, and practicing gratitude. Of course, it doesn’t need to be all of the above, but embracing healthy habits can aid with avoiding the post-vacation blues or at least lessen the effects.
How to Cope With Post-Vacation Depression
Spend Time With Friends and Family
While you’re on vacation, you probably aren’t missing work, paying bills, or doing chores, but you might miss your friends and family back home. I know when I’m away, after the first few days, I start missing my animals and talking to my friends daily. Therefore, shortly after returning home, it can be beneficial to visit your family or meet with friends. Spending time with the people you love can ease some of the depression you might experience after coming home from a great trip, especially if you already missed them. Your friends and family can make you feel at home and be happy to be back for them.
Tackle Responsibilities Slowly
Create a manageable plan to approach all the everyday responsibilities that were left behind while traveling. Attempting to tackle everything at once can feel overwhelming and quickly lead to burnout, resulting in post-vacation depression. Rather than handling every last thing you need to do when you get home, make daily to-do lists with a reasonable number of action items to take on each day. Remember that you’ve been away, and sorting out life’s duties that tend to build up when we aren’t there takes time to get through. Give yourself the grace to handle things at your own pace.
Set a Comfortable Routine
Returning to the normal routine left behind while on vacation isn’t a cakewalk. Such as getting up early with the kids, spending hours at work, family obligations, and hitting the gym. All of this can make anyone long for the ease of a vacation. However, setting a routine that feels comfortable will help keep the blues away. Slowly getting back to a routine goes hand-in-hand with tackling responsibilities at a leisurely pace. Being busy helps but not so much that it’s overwhelming. This is why a comfortable routine creates balance after traveling and can alleviate post-vacation depression.
See and Do the Things You Love in Your City
Another method of dealing with post-vacation depression is by being a tourist in your city or town. Whether it be sightseeing, visiting museums, or simply doing the things you love where you live. This is something I love to do even without the struggle of post-vacation blues, but particularly make sure to do it after I return from traveling. It’s a great way to once again connect with the place you call home and feel content to be there.
Plan Your Next Trip!
Making plans for your next trip is one of the best ways to help with post-vacation depression. It’s also my favorite thing to do when I come home from any type of travel. Researching new destinations, checking flight prices, and picking out possible dates for a vacation are all part of trip planning. It helps keep the mind busy while at the same time giving you something new to look forward to. Feeling empty or sad after a vacation is less likely when the next one is already on the horizon. Plus, it’s fun to begin planning!
Remember that whatever you might be feeling right now is ok! Remind yourself that your feelings are valid. Post-vacation depression is also extremely common, and you aren’t alone in what you’re experiencing. Reach out to your support system and utilize the different coping strategies to manage the symptoms you have. These feelings won’t last forever and before you know it, you’ll be on your next vacation.
However, if the depression or anxiety persists, there’s no shame in seeking support to get help! I’ve included a list of additional mental health resources below. These are organizations that are there to help.
Mental Health Resources
- National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI); 800-950-NAMI (800-950-6264)
- Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA); 240-485-1001
- National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH); 866-615-6464
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline; Dial 988