How to beat the post-holiday blues: pretend you’re still on trip, and make sure you feel fulfilled at work and in life
If you have travel pangs for days after returning from a holiday, you can stave them off by making every day a holiday, says well-being coach. If you have a problem at work, solve it rather than running away from it by taking a break
Have you ever had the post-holiday blues? You know, when you get home from a relaxing trip overseas and the realisation that you have to resume “regular life” kicks in. Your holiday “high” is taken over by stress, anxiety and sadness, and all of a sudden, home is the last place you want to be.
It’s not an unusual feeling, says Dr Florence Huang, a wellness and well-being coach, and professor and dissertation chair for the doctoral programme in international psychology at The Chicago School of Professional Psychology.
Hong Kong holidaymakers dread return more than other Asians, and keep trips short so the work doesn’t pile up, survey finds
“You’ve just had an uninterrupted break from work and all the stresses associated with it, so of course you would feel down. And if you had an amazing time with your travel companions or engaged in fun, meaningful activities, it’s more likely that you would feel bummed out.”
These travel pangs may stay with you for days or even weeks. Why?
During your holiday, you were nudged out of your comfort zone and motivated to break from your habitual thought patterns. This, according to Huang, led you to unusual ground, new ideas, creative thoughts and better decision-making.
“This might have resulted in your bringing home positive emotions such as pride (because you took risks), interest (from trying new things and discovering new hobbies), love (from creating or strengthening relationships), and joy (because you allowed yourself to have fun),” she says. What you long for, then, is not the holiday itself, but the emotions you experienced while you were away.
If your life as a whole were fulfilling, interesting, productive and fun, there would be no reason for you to feel like something was missing. Huang explains: “There’s no denying that going on holiday is good for your emotional well-being, but the positive effects are temporary, and after a few days you’re likely to lose that sense of euphoria.
“But here’s the thing – you don’t need to go on holiday to feel good. A holiday is simply a change of scenery, and if there are problems you are trying to avoid, going away will not solve them.”
Digital detox tips and how to switch off from devices to avoid digital dementia: experts give their advice
It therefore makes sense to deal with the work stress and other problems that you are, quite literally, running away from, and that you dread going back to. Moping around the house or office and longing to relive your holiday is pointless, Huang argues, because this will only drag you further down an emotional black hole.
“We all need a holiday – or a change of scenery – every once in a while to recharge, refocus and recuperate, but if you felt fulfilled and engaged in your job, every day would feel like a holiday,” says Huang.
The trick to finding fulfilment in work, and in life, is to take care of your mind and body first of all. This means allocating time for rest and leisure and recognising when work or other activities begin to eat into that time.
Second, find out what’s preventing you from experiencing real job satisfaction. Huang says if you find meaning in what you do, understand what motivates you, have good relationships with your colleagues and feel accomplished in your job, you are more likely to feel content.
To stave off the post-holiday blues, Vicky Lee makes it a point to recreate her favourite holiday experiences when she gets home.
“I don’t dread going back to work after a holiday because I love my job,” the training consultant and executive coach says. “But, once home, I do miss the fun, carefree and spontaneous things I did while I was away. To get myself back in that frame of mind, I often ‘pretend’ that I’m back in Bangkok, Bali, or wherever I just travelled to.”
For instance, Lee loves the sumptuous breakfast buffets served in hotels, so on weekends, she treats herself to something similar at her favourite Hong Kong cafes. She also enjoys playing “tourist” in Hong Kong by visiting neighbourhoods she’s never been to and exploring these areas on foot, allowing her curiosity to guide her.
“This makes me feel like I’m in a foreign city and I’m seeing all the streets, shops and attractions for the first time,” she explains.
Another strategy she employs is filling her home with the scents of the places she last visited. “I might recreate the signature fragrance of the hotel I stayed in or the scents from my spa treatment.”
And finally, wherever she travels, Lee always makes sure to buy a meaningful souvenir. When she’s back in Hong Kong and starts to reminisce about her time away, all she has to do is look at the souvenir to be reminded of the good times again.
“There was a time when I would feel frustrated whenever I wanted to holiday overseas but couldn’t,” says Lee. “And if I did manage to travel, I would feel depressed when I got home, which defeated the purpose of going on holiday in the first place.
“But then I realised that I could make every day feel like a holiday if I just recreated the mood or activities I experienced on my trip – and it worked. When I’m in that holiday mood here in Hong Kong, I find that I have more energy to do what I need to do; there’s an extra bounce in my step.
“I’m also more easy-going and open-minded, I feel freer, and I have a greater desire to connect with others. Most importantly, I am inspired to step out of my comfort zone and enjoy new experiences.”