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Post-Vacation Depression Is Real! Here's How To Deal With It

Wondering why you feel sad after vacation? You might have post-vacation depression

Have you ever come home from an amazing trip, tanned and with a million stories to tell your friends and coworkers, only to find yourself stressed, depressed, and in a funk the following days? 

You’re not alone. In fact, so many people experience this period of feeling down and out of sorts after a vacation that there’s a name for it: Post-Vacation Depression, also known as Post-Travel Depression or the Vacation Blues. 

Most of the time, this type of depression is situational, and once you adjust back to everyday life, the depression will ease. This is different from clinical depression, which will persist whether you’re on vacation or not. 

Still, post-vacation depression isn’t fun and can have negative impacts on your health, work, social life, and mental health. Let’s dive into what the vacation blues are, why it happens, and what we can do about it.

What Is Post-Vacation Depression?

Post-trip depression is a term used to describe the feelings of sadness, overwhelm, exhaustion, and hopelessness that can occur after you return home from a vacation. It may seem counterintuitive: you just got back from vacation, isn’t that when you’re the most relaxed? But the adjustment from vacation to real life can be hard, especially if you’re not prepared for it. 

Although post-vacation depression is not clinically recognized, it is a common phenomenon. Employees tend to experience increased happiness leading up to their vacation and during their vacation, followed by a return to their baseline happiness or lower within one week of returning from vacation. 

Symptoms of the vacation blues are similar to those of clinical depression, although they tend to be much shorter lasting. Symptoms include: 

  • Difficulty concentrating 
  • Feelings of intense sadness or emptiness 
  • Anxiety or persistent fears 
  • Feeling hopeless or stuck 
  • Mental exhaustion 
  • Lack of motivation 
  • Irritability 
  • Trouble sleeping 
  • Changes in eating habits 

It’s normal to experience an adjustment period after returning from vacation. Therapy can help ease the distress of this transition and provide helpful coping mechanisms for maintaining happiness and life satisfaction.

How Long Does Post-Vacation Depression Last?

Post-vacation depression usually only lasts a few weeks, with some cases lasting up to three weeks. If your depression symptoms continue longer than 2 weeks, seek mental health treatment. You might be experiencing a clinical depressive episode, a common mental health condition that can be treated through proper treatment.

Why Do I Feel Weird After Coming Home From Vacation?

People experience post-vacation depression for many different reasons. One study found that people are at their happiest right before a vacation, not during or after it. This may come as a surprise, but it is understandable. You might be feeling weird after coming home from vacation because you are: 

  • Coming back to work or life stress: If your vacation was a form of escape, coming back to all of that stress can feel even heavier than before.
  • Burnt out: Burnout can feel a lot like depression. If you are burnt out, one vacation won’t solve that; you need to make larger-scale adjustments to your life and take the time to let your body and mind heal.
  • Going from high stimulation (vacation) to low stimulation (everyday life): Vacation is exciting; you’re experiencing new things every day. It can be a shock to your system when you come home and begin living the same way you have for years. 
  • The vacation didn’t live up to expectations: Sometimes, we put so much pressure on the vacation to be fun, that it ends up letting us down. When this happens, it’s understandable to experience depression upon your return. 
  • The vacation was an escape from a life you’re not happy with: If you aren’t happy with your life, that outlook won’t change after a vacation. In fact, the vacation might highlight just how unhappy you are. 
  • The vacation ended up being more stressful than it was relaxing: Have you ever filled a vacation with so much activity that you come home feeling like you need a vacation from the vacation? This can lead to burnout and depression. 
  • It feels like there’s nothing left to be excited about: Sometimes, we stake our happiness on a vacation, and when it’s over, we don’t have anything else to look forward to. 
  • You don’t have another trip or break planned, so all you have is work for the foreseeable future: If you feel stuck in your life, a vacation will only temporarily solve that issue. 

People get the vacation blues for all kinds of reasons. Understanding why you’re experiencing post-vacation depression will help you find a coping strategy that works best for you.

How to Deal with Post-Vacation Depression

Post-vacation depression occurs either because of the difficult transition from vacation back to work, or because of dissatisfaction, burnout, or unhappiness about life that the vacation prevented you from feeling for a short period of time.

Knowing what causes your post-vacation sadness is the first step to feeling better. Other ways to deal with post-vacation depression include: 

  1. Figure out what your depression is really about. Is it the lack of vacation that has you down? Or is it something else, like feeling unfilled in life, stressful living situations, feeling burned out at work, or feeling hopeless or overwhelmed about your future? Try journaling, talking with a friend, or meditation to sort out your feelings. 
  2. Relax and recoup on your vacation: As exciting as vacation is, don’t forget to rest and recover, otherwise you risk returning feeling more tired than when you left. 
  3. Don’t slack off before your vacation: Having a mountain of work to do when you get home is one cause of post-vacation depression. Prevent this stress by tidying up your home before your vacation and keeping on top of your work. 
  4. Have a transition day: Most people use their PTO for their vacation days, and then get back to work the day after they get back. This quick turnaround can be quite the transition, and trigger feelings of depression and anxiety. Instead, give yourself a buffer day to recover from jet lag and get reaccustomed to the pace of your life. 
  5. Schedule something fun: Good times don’t stop just because your vacation ended. Schedule a movie night, a game night with friends, or a night out. The old saying “be a tourist in your own town” is applicable here. You don’t have to stop having fun just because you’re no longer on vacation. 
  6. Practice healthy coping mechanisms: Adjustments will always be hard on your mental health, even if you prepare and do everything right. That’s why it’s important to have healthy coping mechanisms in place for when the vacation blues hit. You can try exercising, talking with friends, practicing self-care, or scheduling a session with a therapist. 
  7. Talk to a therapist: Depression, whether clinical or post-vacation, can be exhausting, challenging, and disruptive to your quality of life. A licensed therapist can help you recover from depression and learn helpful coping mechanisms that will help with difficult transitions and depressive episodes in the future.

Reach Out for Help

If your post-vacation depression lasts for longer than 2 weeks, it might be a sign of clinical depression. Clinical depression is a common mental health disorder and has a high recovery rate, but it’s important to receive help soon after noticing symptoms. 

Lifebulb offers highly trained and experienced depression counselors for post-vacation depression and clinical depression. Reach out to our team to learn more.

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Frequently Asked Questions

 Post-vacation depression, also known as post-holiday blues, is a temporary emotional state that some individuals experience after returning from a vacation or trip. It's characterized by feelings of sadness, low energy, and a lack of motivation to resume daily activities. While it's normal to feel a bit down after an enjoyable time away, post-vacation depression goes beyond simple post-trip blues.

 Several factors can contribute to post-vacation depression. Firstly, the contrast between the joy and relaxation of the vacation and the return to the responsibilities and routine of daily life can be disheartening. Secondly, the anticipation and build-up to the trip itself can create expectations that are difficult to meet. Lastly, the abrupt shift from a vacation mindset, where there are fewer obligations and more freedom, to the demands of everyday life can also play a role.

 While post-vacation depression can be challenging, there are strategies that can help alleviate its symptoms. Firstly, it's important to practice self-compassion and be patient with yourself as you readjust. Allow yourself time to rest and recover from travel before diving back into your routine. Secondly, maintaining a balanced lifestyle, which includes regular exercise, healthy eating, and engaging in activities that bring you joy, can help boost your mood. Additionally, staying connected with loved ones and sharing your thoughts and feelings can provide support. Lastly, considering scheduling self-care activities or planning a future vacation can give you something to look forward to.

 The duration of post-vacation depression varies from person to person. While some individuals may only experience it for a few days, others may have symptoms that persist for weeks. In most cases, the feelings of post-vacation depression tend to fade as you gradually ease back into your regular routine. If symptoms persist or significantly impact your daily life for an extended period, it may be helpful to seek support from a mental health professional.

 Post-vacation depression is a temporary emotional state triggered by the transition from vacation to normal life. It usually lasts for a short period and is situational in nature. On the other hand, clinical depression, also known as major depressive disorder, is a persistent and more severe mental health condition. Unlike post-vacation depression, clinical depression is not solely related to specific life events or vacations. It involves persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and a loss of interest in activities, which can last for weeks, months, or even longer. If you suspect you may be experiencing clinical depression, it's important to consult with a mental health professional for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

 Yes, Lifebulb offers depression therapy. At Lifebulb, we believe that great therapy starts with a great client-therapist relationship. Our team of highly educated, experienced, and passionate therapists are dedicated to helping individuals overcome depression and live their brightest lives. We strive to connect our clients with the best therapist for their needs and goals. Through evidence-based treatments, compassionate support, and personalized approaches, our therapists work closely with clients to develop effective coping strategies, provide emotional guidance, and facilitate their journey towards improved mental health and well-being. If you're interested in depression therapy, we encourage you to reach out to us to schedule a session and start your healing journey.

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