You know the feeling – the holiday is over and it is now

back to the reality of work and normal life. It’s called the post-vacation blues and it is now defined on Wikipedia and has its own hashtag on twitter with comments like:

And it is not just a latest buzz on Twitter. Research into health and well-being before, during and after vacation found that within one week of coming back to work, the improvements to your health and well-being have already faded out. Before vacation there is the pre-vacation stress of finishing up all the work, handing over and organising the vacation. It takes us a few days to unwind from this stress and acclimatize before starting to enjoying the vacation (4 days according to this research). Feelings of well-being peaked about 8 days into a vacation when we’ve managed to detach from work. After vacation you are re-energised and recharged, but it is quickly lost as you come back to the reality of work and life.

For most of us real life can’t be like a vacation. Vacation is the time we get to follow our hobbies and interests. We get to socialise more with family and friends. We get to see and experience new things. Depending on your choice of holiday someone else might cook, clean and even entertain your children. We sleep better, exercise more and are more creative during a good stress-free vacation.

Reclaim your life during non-vacation time

To beat the post vacation blues, a colleague advised me to start planning the next vacation before coming back to work from the last vacation. And it is good advice as the anticipation of a holiday is more pleasurable than the actual holiday as a study of 1530 Dutch people showed. But as I found, it is hard to go through 48 weeks of work looking forward to just a few weeks of vacation. If this is the case for you too, then it is time to change what is happening in your life and job.

If it is just a mild case of the blues think about how you can build in more holiday-like relaxation and pleasure into the normal week. Have your weekends become so busy with a long list of “must do” chores and “should do” obligations? Where could you find time to relax and enjoy a few hours break, refresh and recharge? Could you outsource some chores just like you do while on vacation? Perhaps take up a new activity or visit some new places in your area to give you a feeling of experiencing something new, like when you are on vacation.
Or is it time to think about what you can change in your current job. What is not working in your current job – uninspiring projects, long commute, stress, a bad boss or just going nowhere? The saying goes “a change is a good as a holiday”. Perhaps a change is not really like a holiday but it could help you feel like getting out of bed in the morning!

Finally if it is not just the job but your profession, then it could be time for a big change. Imagine if you could have a career that incorporates your hobby, interest or passion into your daily work. Imagine if you were really inspired by what you were doing and it did not feel like work – but more like a vacation. If you’ve been in your current profession for many years you might think it is too late to change and stay stuck in a job you’ve lost enthusiasm for. But it’s not too late. It just requires more planning at mid-life career than earlier in your career.