Vacations are supposed to be a time to decompress and recharge, but sometimes the end of a vacation can cause depression.
Many people find that the lead-up to a vacation can be even more enjoyable than the vacation itself.
Why? Because while you’re anticipating, you’re looking forward to those coveted days of freedom that you haven’t yet experienced.
Strangely enough, once you’re finally on the vacation you’ve been so excited about, anxiety and dread may creep in about it coming to an end.
It’s going to be challenging to truly enjoy your vacation if you’re fixated on it being over. Every minute that passes may feel like another minute closer to being back at work, school, or whatever the normal day-to-day means for you.
So when vacation is over, you might not feel as good as you imagined you’d feel. You might even feel like there’s nothing left to look forward to.
If this sounds familiar, you may be experiencing a classic case of “post-vacation depression.” Even though this isn’t a recognized mental health condition, your feelings are still valid and there are things you can do to ease back into life when returning from vacation.
It’s not uncommon to feel a little blue or down when coming back from vacation, but post-vacation depression can show up in a lot of different ways.
Some common symptoms you might experience following a vacation include:
Anyone can find it challenging to adjust back to their regular routine after vacation mode.
If you’ve used up your time off, or don’t have another vacation planned, you might feel like you have nothing to look forward to for a while. You may also just experience an overall grieving period when your vacation comes to an end.
These feelings are common — in fact, most people tend to feel their happiest before a vacation, not after.
This just goes to show that the high that vacations can provide can be short-lived and lead to a sense of withdrawal once the vacation is over. For some people, this withdrawal can lead them to feel down or depressed.
But this doesn’t have to be the case for you! With the right tools, you can make your vacation days joyful — before, during, and after.
Feeling a bit sad or disappointed when your vacation comes to an end is pretty typical.
But if you’re consistently feeling overwhelmed or having symptoms of depression post-vacation, there are some things you can do.
Make time for relaxation on your trip
Many people instinctively cram in as many activities as they can into their trips in order to make the most of their time off.
But according to research in 2012, people who have a more relaxing vacation tend to report higher levels of health and well-being after their vacations than those who relaxed less.
Given this, you might want to consider scheduling a couple of days to sleep in and take things easy. Downtime can be a great act of self-care.
Take lots of photos and write in a journal
One way to transition back to reality post-vacation is to document your getaway as much as possible.
Photos, journal entries, and souvenirs can represent memories you made on your trip. Mementos can be a reminder that the time you spent there is still meaningful to you, even when you’re back to your daily grind.
Tidy up your home before you leave
With a little extra work before vacation, you can make it easier to come back after being away.
One thing that can make a difference is to come back to a clean and organized home. This way, you aren’t dreading the chores you have to do.
Consider taking a little extra time before leaving to make beds, wash dishes, take out the trash, and put away clothes.
Give yourself a transition day
Many people choose to make the most of their vacation time and return from trips late on Sunday evening, with work first thing Monday morning.
But giving yourself a transition day can help you fully decompress (not to mention unpack) before going back to your usual routine.
You might want to schedule your return travel for a Friday or Saturday, or if you do need to come back Sunday, take Monday off to recharge.
Have something to look forward to
One of the main reasons people might experience depressive symptoms after vacation is because they feel like there’s nothing left to look forward to for a while.
A good way to make the end of your trip feel less disappointing is to schedule something fun to look forward to the week you return home.
This might mean scheduling a date night for the middle of the week, having friends over for a movie night, or just about anything else that reminds you of the good things you have waiting for you at home.
Did you bring someone back a souvenir? Set up a dinner to share your gift and travel memories.
Begin researching your next trip
Even if you’re not planning on traveling for another year, creating Pinterest boards or researching itineraries for various trips can get your mind off your current vacation coming to an end.
With some ideas for your next vacation, it can help remind you that there’s always something to look forward to.
If you’re experiencing symptoms of depression that last several days or more after you’re back from vacation, consider reaching out for help.
Sometimes, post-vacation depression can reveal greater challenges in your life that could benefit from professional support.
If you’re considering self-harm or suicide, help is available:
- Call a crisis hotline:
- HOME to the Crisis Text Line at 741741
- START to The Trevor Project at 678678
- The Veterans Crisis Line at 838255
- HAND to the Deaf Crisis Line at 839863
- If you’re not in the United States, find a crisis helpline in your country with Befrienders Worldwide.
Feeling anxious or stressed out after a vacation ends is common, but there are steps you can take to prevent or relieve these feelings as much as possible.
While post-vacation depression isn’t a recognized type of depression, it may reveal or lead to diagnosable forms of depression in the future.
The best way to relieve post-vacation depression is by allowing yourself to fully relax and decompress on vacation. Having future trips or things to look forward to will also help counter any disappointment you feel when your trip comes to an end.
Even something as small as coming back to a clean home can make a difference when transitioning back to your regular life.
If depression symptoms persist or begin to feel unmanageable or severe, consider reaching out for professional support. The end of vacation mode is usually disappointing, but post-vacation depression shouldn’t last more than a few days.