What are the Post-vacation Blues?

20 January, 2020
The post-vacation blues are definitely not a type of depression. This condition refers to a set of symptoms that people may suffer from after a period of rest or vacation. However, they pass with time.

The post-vacation blues are a set of emotions that people have after returning from vacation or a long period without working. It’s a colloquial term for the adjustment period that happens when people re-enter the workplace and resume their responsibilities.

This emotional imbalance is characterized by an increase in apathy, sadness, and fatigue, both physical and psychological. Therefore, this condition is sometimes called post-vacation depression.

Have you ever had this feeling? Keep reading to learn more about the post-vacation blues.

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Are the post-vacation blues a disorder?

None of the psychiatry or psychology manuals consider the post-vacation blues a mental disorder. Additionally, the post-vacation blues can’t be considered a type of depression a priori. However, this doesn’t mean that it can’t be a source of discomfort for people returning from vacation or a period of rest.

Therefore, medical professionals don’t consider the post-vacation blues a psychological disorder. Instead, this condition is a temporary emotional imbalance during which the person has to re-adapt to their tasks after a vacation or period without working.

According to Dr. Herrero and Esquirol (2016), the scientific community hasn’t come to a consensus about the post-vacation blues. Scientists believe that it comes from the fact that, in a large part of our community, work is seen as a negative, forced activity that involves sacrifice.

They add that, if society saw work as a place to enhance creativity and personal development, the post-vacation blues would not exist. Going back to something you don’t like after doing something you like is and has always been problematic, not only when it comes to vacation.

The post-vacation blues man at desk stressed.

Physicians and scientists don’t consider the post-vacation blues a disorder. However, it is an emotional mismatch that can trigger physical and psychological symptoms.

Adapting is the main problem

Professor Michael Baigent says that the big problem with the post-vacation blues is adapting. Therefore, he says that it’s normal to feel sad, discouraged or nostalgic when you come back from a vacation.

Additionally, he argues that on vacation, people do plenty of pleasant activities that they don’t normally do when they aren’t on vacation. So, when you stop doing things you like and start doing things that you don’t, you feel nostalgic and bothered.

As the main problem of the post-vacation blues is re-adapting to your routine, this condition usually doesn’t last more than ten or fifteen days. The person will feel disrupted and unsettled until he or she can manage to adapt to their thoughts, behaviors, and emotions.

Symptoms of the post-vacation blues

Since this condition isn’t clearly defined, neither are the symptoms. However, people who are suffering from post-vacation blues may have both physical and psychological symptoms.

Physical symptoms

  • Fatigue or tiredness
  • Dizziness
  • Poor concentration
  • Lack of attention

Other less frequent symptoms include:

  • Tachycardia
  • Headaches
  • Lack of appetite
  • Insomnia
  • Digestive problems

Emotional symptoms

  • Apathy
  • Melancholia
  • Nostalgia
  • Irritability
  • Sadness

If symptoms don’t subside within a maximum of two weeks, you could be dealing with acute stress, generalized anxiety, panic attacks, etc., depending on the symptoms.

In that case, other things are going on: there could be additional environmental or psychological factors that are affecting you. If you think this could be happening to you, try to get help from a psychologist or other mental health professional. In this case, there may be another underlying disorder that could affect your general functioning.

Sad woman looking out the window

The post-vacation blues can cause sadness, anxiety, and other psychological problems that make it hard to return to work.

Living for vacation

Coach Shannah Kennedy, in an interview for Traveller magazine, explains that the American and European approaches to life could be the possible cause 0f the post-vacation blues.

He argues that most people live for vacation, waiting for it as the greatest event of the year. They don’t take advantage of, live for or appreciate the times of their life while they’re working. It seems that vacations are the only thing they have to look forward to, be happy about, and want to experience.

This way of life causes people to wait a year to live in the moment during a month of vacation. Therefore, it’s normal that after waiting so long and finally being able to live in the moment, you feel nostalgia, sadness, and apathy, since you have to wait another year to get rest and enjoy yourself again!

Ideally, therefore, it’s important to include small rest periods and “vacations” during the year, either on weekends or on your days off. Go to the mountains for a day trip or visit the beach if you live near the coast. Additionally, it’s crucial to put more energy into projects that you don’t have to wait a year to enjoy and cause disappointment when they end.

The causes of the post-vacation blues

As we already mentioned, the post-vacation blues are mainly due to difficulties re-adapting when returning to work. That being said, certain variables can increase the severity of this condition. The following problems can aggravate the post-vacation blues:

  • Body image problems: While on vacation, people tend to eat more than normal, and even be more sedentary. Therefore, their bodies can change and not be the same as they were before going on vacation. This can lead to body image problems that make the work routine much more complex to re-adapt to.
  • Tiredness: Sleep habits also tend to change in the summer and during vacations, since people do more nighttime activities and sleep less. The accumulated fatigue can cause a feeling of lethargy and fatigue in the workplace.
  • Increase in alcohol intake: As mentioned above, people often abuse alcohol during vacations. This can also increase fatigue.
  • Making too many plans: During vacations, it’s also common to make too many plans and not rest. Therefore, in order not to feel the ravages of an excessively busy schedule on vacation, it’s advisable to allow time for doing nothing or simply contemplating your new surroundings.

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Tips to overcome the post-vacation blues

Psychological factors of the post-vacation blues.

Returning to work gradually could be an option for overcoming the post-vacation blues. However, it’s also a good idea to be wary of your habits.

Very few cases of post-vacation stress require psychological intervention. In fact, those that do are often that way because of an underlying disorder or additional psychological factors. However, it’s up to you to regulate your habits and keep track of how you’re feeling to adapt to your work life again as quickly as possible.

Some of the best advice is as follows:

  • Make sure to get enough sleep. Try to sleep about eight interrupted hours per night.
  • Don’t just live for vacation. Instead, pose new challenges and take on new projects. Take care of yourself by maintaining a healthy diet and staying hydrated. It’s also important to exercise, which can help improve your post-vacation mood.
  • Approach the return to work gradually. Don’t start working intensely all of a sudden: it will make re-adapting more difficult.
  • Don’t start work immediately after returning from vacation. Instead, consider returning home a few days before.
  • Be careful with alcohol and caffeine. While alcohol can aggravate feelings of apathy and nostalgia, caffeine can do the same with feelings of stress and anxiety.
  • Rethink your job. Evaluate your job and why you may feel it’s a burden to you. Alternatively, you may want to rethink your career and, if possible, find a job that truly fosters your personal growth.

If you think you may be suffering from the post-vacation blues, it’s a good idea to keep calm and be patient. Trust that the feelings of apathy and nostalgia will go away on their own in a few days.

Finally, once you learn how to approach the end of vacation differently, it’ll be much easier the next time you return to work from vacation. That way, you’ll come back refreshed, renewed, and full of energy, instead of apathetic, stressed and anxious.

  • Herrero y Esquirol (2016). Síndrome postvacacional. canalSALUD, Canales Mapfre, en: https://www.salud.mapfre.es/cuerpo-y-mente/psicologia/sindrome-post-vacacional/
  • ISEP (2019). El síndrome postvacacional, en: https://www.isep.es/actualidad-psicologia-clinica/sindrome-postvacacional/
  • Unknown Traveller redactor (2012). How to beat post-holidays blues. Planning section, Traveller, en: http://www.traveller.com.au/how-to-beat-the-postholiday-blues-1qd0v
  • Alejandra Salazar (2018). Post-Holiday Blues: Is it real? Can I prevent it? CogniFit, Health, Brain & Neuroscience, en: https://blog.cognifit.com/post-holiday-blues/