Vacations are great!Going back to work afterwards isn’t. Here’s how to lessen the pain of settling back in.
You probably don’t need to be convinced that taking a vacation – or even just a long weekend – is a pretty good idea. Neither do scientists, whose many findings on the matter praise the health and productivity to be found in a little time off work. Unfortunately, you’ll quickly undo all those benefits if you return to an overflowing inbox and a calendar jammed with back-to-back meetings.
The good news is there are plenty of things you can do both before leaving and during the holiday to help you hold onto your vacation bliss-even after you’re back in the office. Here’s a roundup of the best advice we could find on preparing for, taking, and returning from your vacation in a way that will drastically minimise the pain you feel on your return to the drudge.
1. Back Away From Your Inbox – Slowly
Think you can just set your out-of-office message the night before you go away? Think again. Rely on that and you can count on having a lot of collateral damage to clean up when you get back! If you’re going to be away for a week or more, start informing everyone you work closely with a few weeks in advance that you’ll be gone between X and Y dates. Then, when you hit the two-week mark, set an auto-message warning anyone who contacts you that you’re going off the grid soon. It might feel like you’re shouting ostentatiously about your travel plans, but you’re actually doing your colleagues a favour by giving them plenty of time to prepare. Your inbox will clearly thank you on your return, and your heart will also.
2. Have Your Next Trip Already Planned
That’s right. No matter how great your vacation is overall, parts of it will suck. Some days it will rain. You’ll get that weird bug bite, and then another. If you’ve saved up all your vacation days for a long, once-in-a-lifetime, picture-perfect trip, you’re probably setting yourself up to be disappointed.
As time-management expert Laura Vanderkam explains, “Smaller pleasures experienced frequently contribute more to overall well-being than major but less infrequent ones.” At a minimum, you’re hedging your bets. Whatever might go wrong on a shorter trip, it’ll irk you less if you’ve got a fresh excursion to look forward to a few months away.
What’s more, merely looking forward to getting away can make us even happier than actually being away. “When you think about the fun you’ll be having,” Vanderkam says, “you feel much of the same joy the experience itself will bring. The difference is that it can last a lot longer.” So if you’ve got another trip planned-even before you get back from the one you’re on-the return to office life won’t feel like the end of all things.
3. Treat Yourself
It’s great to break out of your usual routines while you’re traveling, but nonstop adventuring can be exhausting. It’s also true that, what with all the excitement and adrenaline, your exhaustion might not catch up with you until you’ve returned home. So treat yourself for a bit! You might worry you’re wasting precious time in a foreign place by doing what you do on an ordinary weekend at home. But so what? Look up a nearby gym that sells day passes. Find a yoga studio in the city where you’re staying. If you spend a day or two-or even a few hours-just relaxing while you’re on vacation, you’ll have more energy during the rest of the trip and less fatigue to cope with once it’s over.
4. Don’t Take The Red-Eye Home
I once watched the sun rise from a purgatorial customs queue at Newark International Airport after returning on a 16-hour flight from 10 days in Hong Kong. By the time noon rolled around on the most punishing Monday of my existence, I felt certain I was on death’s door. So give yourself a buffer day to recover from traveling. Fly back on Saturday, rest up on Sunday, and go back to work less drained on Monday morning.
5. Exit Through The Gift Shop
The pressure to buy knick-knacks and gadgets for your loved ones while you’re traveling is real. But it might actually be more important for you to take home a souvenir for yourself. After all, you were the one who was actually there, and part of easing back into real life after vacation is savouring the memories you’ve just made. Bring something back that you can put on your desk to remind you of your trip. It’ll also give you something to show coworkers who ask how your vacation was, allowing you a tangible way to re-experience the pleasure of your vacation.