Since my last post was about the importance of scheduling a vacation, it seems appropriate that today I post about returning to “real life” after vacation. Believe me when I say I really did not want to return to work after a week at the beach. REALLY. DID. NOT. However, I did return to work this fine Monday and had an absolutely lovely day…because I decided to have an absolutely lovely day and took steps to make it so. Reflecting on how I went from pouting like a toddler driving away from the beach on Saturday to being a smiling, productive grown up today, I have some ideas to share that might help you when returning to your “real life” after a vacation, a weekend, or any other time away.
First, find the next thing to look forward to. If you’re like me, you spent a lot of time planning and anticipating your time away. You enjoyed it so much and you try to hold onto that, but you also have a little empty spot because it’s over. Bummer. So what’s next? Hey, I have a brunch and a dinner date coming up next week. And the next family getaway is only like 5 months away. That takes a little bit of the sting of vacation being over away.
Next, get organized. In my experience, getting organized requires my brain to take over, which helps me get over the vacation blues, Sunday blues, or whatever other blues I may have. Getting organized allows you to take action and therefore take control of an emotional situation. Whether it’s sadness that the vacation is over or feeling overwhelmed at jumping back into your daily life (that pile of laundry waiting on you, the 100+ work emails in your inbox…) just take action. So where to start?
My suggestion is to start with what must be done first. For example, if you have no clean underwear and almost no food in the house, throw in a load of laundry and make your grocery list. (Side note, laundry is my favorite chore because it does its thing in the background while I am actively working on something else. So at the end of the day I can feel super productive!)
After completing what must be done, I suggest doing what is bugging you. Do the thing that you’re going to keep thinking about even though it’s not the most important thing, because otherwise you keep thinking about it and you’re wasting precious mental energy. For me yesterday, it was paying bills and getting our financial “stuff” in order. By the end of the day yesterday (first day after vacation) I was feeling pretty accomplished, but still a little sad. Maybe you’d consider this an optional tip or maybe a mandatory one, but I decided to indulge in a little “self care” to get over my vacation blues by continuing my vacation so to speak. I grabbed a drink and sat out on the deck reading for an hour…just like I’d done for the past week at the beach.
Monday morning arrived, and here’s possibly my number one tip: I opened my eyes, smiled, and took a couple minutes to be grateful. I was grateful for another day, grateful that I have a job with flexibility, grateful that I have clean clothes and food in the pantry, grateful for my health and my family. Next tip…be kind to yourself, treat yourself, and ease back into work. For me that meant a quick workout and then picking up a yummy caramel coffee drink after dropping my son off at an early morning practice. You can make the decision to roll back into work happy or crabby, but either way you’re going back to work, so you might as well be happy! I smiled and said “have a good day” to everyone I encountered this morning. It made me feel good and hopefully it even brightened up someone else’s day as well. (Maybe your treat is not food/drink related, and it could be as simple as playing your favorite playlist while driving to work and belting out the lyrics. Just do something that makes you happy to start your day.)
Now, facing work for the first day back is not so sad or overwhelming because you’re in a happy mental space. You can face whatever the day has in store for you. You don’t have to get all caught up in the first ten minutes. You can apply the same strategy to work as described earlier. Do what must be done (maybe an urgent matter for your boss), then do what is bugging you and wasting your mental energy (sorting emails to find which ones really need action and which ones you were copied on but were already taken care of while you were out.) Decide the top 2-3 tasks you need to complete by the end of the day that will make you feel accomplished. Keep a to do list that you can add to as more tasks pop into your mind. (Again, reserve your mental energy by writing them down and not playing them on a constant loop in your brain.) Anything you can cross off your to do list in addition to the 2-3 tasks you want to complete by the end of the day is bonus!
I hope one or more of these suggestions will help you when returning to “real life” after some time away as well. If you have other tips that help you beat the vacation blues, I’d love to hear them. Otherwise, there’s still some daylight left here; I’m grabbing a drink and my book and heading out to the deck…keep this “vacation” going!