On Tuesday night, I returned from a two-week vacation to Ireland and Scotland. Since it’s vacation season, I bet a lot of professionals are going through – or are about to – things similar to what I experienced, before, during and after the vacation.
For some reason, American workers only use about half of their allotted vacation time. Some companies make it hard to do otherwise, but if you can take your vacation, you absolutely should. Even if you can’t take off two weeks at a time, take some time. Being on vacation (or just away from work) helps decrease stress and is good for your health. Plus, time off makes life more fun.
Before you head out of the office, leave yourself a list of what you were working on. You might think you’ll remember, and chances are you eventually will, but between the logistics of travel and the unfortunate realities of returning to the real world, there’s a good chance things will slip through the cracks. Take the last ten minutes of the day before your vacation to write down who you’re emailing with, the projects you’re still working on (even if they’re not due for weeks), and the first things to do when you get back. It will make your transition back a lot smoother – trust.
When you leave, unplug as much as you can. I brought my phone, no laptop, but I’ll admit, I scrolled through and posted on social media once or twice a day. (Funny thing: my parents were on social media way more than my husband and I were. Who says Millennials are the most connected?)
Isn’t it ridiculous to travel around the world – or go through the hassle of making vacation plans – just to sit at the breakfast table and realize everyone is on their phone? Yes, this happened. My husband, who wisely left his phone off, sat through a few breakfasts where we were all on Facebook. After that, I made an effort to only check social media at the beginning or end of the day and not at the table, but as I’m sure he’d tell you, I didn’t have a perfect record. Just put the phones down. It will be OK.
Finally, try not to work. I scrolled through my work email maybe three times, mostly because I was curious to see if anything was happening, but I didn’t open any emails. About 60 percent of people who do take time off do actual work on that time off. Please don’t work. Work makes a vacation cease to be a vacation.
Things will be fine. The work world will go on, but your vacation won’t.
It’s almost guaranteed that re-entry is going to be difficult. After walking five to 10 miles a day (sometimes more), being outside, and having no responsibilities, sitting in front of a computer and writing this is not the easiest or most amazing thing I’ve done recently. And after two weeks on my phone, I can hardly remember how to type.
Regardless, I feel pretty good, but not everyone does; the post-vacation blues are a real thing. Make sure you give yourself time to readjust. Even if you’re back at work the next morning, go easy on yourself. This doesn’t mean slacking, but do things to make your life easier, like simpler dinners, triaging chores, or just hiring someone to clean the house this once. But make sure to get right back into healthy habits like exercising and hobbies – it’s amazing how fast life’s stress comes back.