I used to struggle with reality when I returned from holidays. From work to nutrition to fitness, everything was off balance. There’s no question – recovering after a vacation is hard.

The transition back to routine can be jarring, leaving us exhausted, disoriented, and even a bit sad. Often, we return feeling like we need a vacation from our vacation. But why does this happen? And, more importantly, how can we bounce back quickly and effectively?

Fortunately, there’s a lot you can do to make it easier.

Recovering after a vacation

Best Tips for Recovering After a Vacation

Here, I offer practical tips and strategies to help you ease back into your routine after a vacation. Let’s start by understanding the root of post-vacation fatigue.

Understanding Post-Vacation Fatigue

Imagine you’ve spent a week in a tropical paradise, basking in the sun, exploring new cultures, and breaking away from your routine. It’s been an extraordinarily blissful time, but now you’re back home, and reality hits hard. Been there, done that!

This jolt, often accompanied by a sense of exhaustion and disorientation, is what we refer to as post-vacation fatigue. Some people think of it as post-vacation depression. Neither is wrong.

Recognizing the signs

  • Feeling lethargic or unmotivated
  • Difficulty focusing on work or daily tasks
  • Longing to go back to vacation mode

Why Is Coming Back from a Vacation Hard?

Understanding these factors is the first step in reducing their effects. 

Change in Routines

Humans are creatures of habit, if nothing else. Our bodies and minds thrive on routine. Travel disrupts our regular sleep patterns, eating habits, and exercise routines. This disruption can lead to serious physical and mental fatigue.

Reality Feels Over-rated

On vacation, our usual stressors are miles away. We’re immersed in new, exciting experiences that stimulate our senses and emotions. Returning home means facing the mundane aspects of daily life again, which can feel particularly dreary after the highs of a holiday.

Physical Exhaustion

Traveling can be physically demanding. Long flights, changes in altitude and climate, and being more active than usual can all take a toll on our bodies.

Emotional Fatigue

Vacations often come with their own stressors – navigating unfamiliar places, language barriers, and even the pressure to make the most out of our vacation time can leave us emotionally drained.

stack of suitcases with airplane in the background

How to Recover after a Vacation

Pre-vacation Planning for Recovering from Vacation

Planning ahead to reduce post-vacation stress. Addressing potential issues and organizing your affairs before you leave can ensure a smoother transition when you return.

  • Completing or delegating most of your pending tasks before you leave can significantly reduce the workload waiting for you upon your return.
  • Setting up an out-of-office email and informing colleagues of your absence helps manage expectations. It also reduces the likelihood of returning to overwhelming urgent issues or emails.
  • Leaving your home clean and organized means returning to a stress-free environment. Returning to a space that doesn’t immediately demand cleaning or organizing is unbelievably relaxing.
  • Arranging for someone to look after your pets or plants in your absence means you won’t return to any neglected home responsibilities.
  • Ensuring all bills are paid and setting a vacation budget can prevent financial stress upon returning.
  • Having a well-planned itinerary, including transportation and accommodation details, minimizes last-minute rushes and uncertainties, both of which can be sources of stress post-vacation.
  • Planning a light, manageable fitness routine for the vacation can help maintain your physical health, making it easier to resume normal activities later.

Being mentally prepared for the transition back to routine can lessen the shock of re-entry. Acknowledging that adjusting might take a few days can make a world of difference.

blue suitcase with same blue background

What you can do to catch up after vacation, during vacation

These practices enhance the vacation experience and prepare you mentally and physically for the return to everyday life.

Stay Partially Connected to Work (If Comfortable)

If (and only if) completely disconnecting from work causes anxiety, consider checking in briefly, but limit this to a specific short time each day or every few days. This can prevent the buildup of stress about a massive workload awaiting your return.

Maintain Some Routine Elements

While vacation is a break from routine, maintaining certain elements, like waking up regularly or continuing a light exercise regimen, can make the transition back to your daily routine less jarring.

Mindful Relaxation and Enjoyment

Practice mindfulness to fully engage and appreciate your vacation moments. This presence can help in mental rejuvenation, making you more prepared to face routine challenges upon return.

Balanced Scheduling

Avoid over-scheduling your vacation with activities. This is a work in progress for me. When it works, it’s a game-changer. Balancing planned events and free time reduces exhaustion and allows for spontaneous enjoyment.

Healthy Eating and Sleeping Habits

While it’s tempting to indulge, maintaining a balanced diet and ensuring adequate sleep can energize you and prevent post-vacation fatigue.

Physical Activity

Incorporating light to moderate physical activity, like walking, swimming, or yoga, can boost mood and energy levels, making the post-vacation transition smoother.

Journaling or Reflective Practices

Keeping a travel journal or engaging in reflective practices can help process experiences, allowing for a more profound and meaningful vacation that can leave you feeling more fulfilled and less likely to experience post-vacation blues.

Planning for Return

Toward the end of your vacation, start shifting your mindset to prepare for your return. I usually do this on the plane and actually look forward to it. Consider making a list of tasks to tackle once you’re back so you have a clear action plan.

Savoring and Gratitude

Practicing gratitude during your vacation can enhance your overall experience. Reflect on what you enjoy and savor these moments, which can boost your mood and overall well-being.

Stay Hydrated and Rested

Keeping yourself hydrated and getting enough rest during the vacation helps maintain your energy levels and reduces the risk of returning home feeling depleted.

Connect with Home

A brief check-in with friends or family back home can be comforting and can help you feel less overwhelmed upon returning.

Integrating these practices into your vacation allows you to enjoy your time off fully while setting the stage for a smoother, less stressful transition back to your regular life.

Remember, the goal of a vacation is not only to provide an escape but also to rejuvenate you for the challenges and routines of everyday life when you return from vacation.

Recovering after a vacation

How can I readjust to my regular routine after a vacation?

Returning to a regular routine after a vacation involves a gradual transition. Start by resetting your sleep schedule to align with your usual way. This might require going to bed and waking up earlier than you did on vacation.

Secondly, organize and prioritize your tasks. Make a to-do list for the week ahead, starting with the most urgent tasks. This helps in regaining focus and reducing post-vacation stress. Lastly, give yourself time to readjust.

Only schedule a few activities or tasks immediately after your return. Allow a day or two to transition back into your regular life smoothly.

Returning from Vacation

  • Give yourself a day or two to readjust before returning to work or taking on significant responsibilities.
  • Make a list of tasks that need immediate attention. Prioritizing helps manage time and reduces the feeling of being overwhelmed.
  • Unpack your bags as soon as possible.
  • Ensure you get enough rest.
  • Stay hydrated and eat well to boost your energy levels and well-being.
  • Take time to reflect on your experiences.
  • Engage in light exercise to revitalize your body.
  • If returning to work, start with less demanding tasks and gradually take on more as you readjust.
  • Sharing memories and experiences with your travel companions can be a great way to transition back to everyday life.
  • Techniques such as meditation, deep breathing, or mindfulness can help reduce stress and improve focus.
  • Start planning your next vacation or a fun weekend activity.
  • Return to your regular sleeping, eating, and exercise routines as soon as possible.

Recognize that feeling out of sorts for a few days is normal. Allow yourself time to adjust without self-criticism. Find joy in returning to your own space. Remember, the key is to transition gently and give yourself time to adjust.

Empty highway leading into a sunset

How can I deal with post-vacation blues?

Post-vacation blues are standard and can be managed by several strategies. First, try to relive your vacation memories by looking at photos or sharing stories with friends and family. This can help prolong the positive feelings from your trip.

Secondly, plan something to look forward to, like a weekend outing or a new hobby. This helps shift focus to future enjoyable activities. Also, practice self-care hobbies or relaxation techniques such as meditation, exercise, or a spa day to ease the transition.

Finally, maintain a positive attitude by reflecting on the good experiences from your vacation and how they enriched your life.

the silhouettes of 2 people each standing on a separate VW bus

How can I maintain a healthy lifestyle after indulging on vacation?

Gradually incorporate healthy eating habits to return to a healthy lifestyle after vacation indulgences. Avoid drastic dietary changes; instead, aim for balanced meals with plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins.

Reestablish your exercise routine, beginning with lighter activities and gradually increasing intensity. Also, stay hydrated and get enough sleep to help your body recover.

Remember, it’s okay to indulge occasionally on vacation, and returning to a healthy routine shouldn’t be a punishment but rather a return to a lifestyle that makes you feel good.

multiple directional location signs on a post

FAQs: Catching up after vacation

How to get back to work after vacation?

To get back to work after a vacation, prioritize your tasks, reset your sleep schedule to match your work routine, and give yourself a buffer day to plan your upcoming week and catch up on emails. Transition smoothly by breaking down work into manageable parts and easing back into your routine.

How do you recover from jetlag?

To recover from jetlag, gradually adjust your sleep schedule to the new time zone before you go, if possible. Stay hydrated, avoid caffeine and alcohol, get plenty of sunlight during the day, and try to sleep during nighttime in your new location. Short naps and melatonin supplements may also help.

lady on a log bench looking out at landscape

Final Thoughts on Recovering after a Vacation

Returning from a vacation requires a balanced approach, focusing on the transition’s practical and emotional aspects.

By preparing in advance, easing back into your routine, and caring for your mental and physical health, you can overcome the post-vacation blues and return to your daily life with renewed energy and perspective.

Give yourself grace and time to adjust, and soon, you’ll find yourself back in the groove of your everyday life, cherishing the memories of a well-spent vacation.