Have you ever got back from a holiday and immediately experienced a sense of dread mixed with anxiety and overwhelm? Have you ever wished for your holidays to last longer? You may then have what people know as “post-holiday blues”.
Although there is not much research about it, it is quite a common experience to find ourselves in a bit of a low mood when back from holidays. There may be a few reasons why it is so: during our time away from our routine, we may have an opportunity to relax, enjoy the things we love without major time constraints and switch off from some of the everyday responsibilities we may or may have.
What exactly is post-holiday blues?
Generally speaking, post-holiday blues is a short-term experience of emptiness, resistance/dread to going back to the pre-holiday routine, low energy and mood, sense of stuckness and anxiousness. Some may describe it as a sense of loss for the good time you had compared to the monotony of your daily living.
Post-holiday blues: what are they telling us?
Despite post-holiday blues being temporary, it sure puts a light on things that are not working for us anymore.
Taking time off from our routine can help us to put things into perspective even when there is no change of scenery. Long enough holidays can teach us so much about our needs and what we miss from our lives to feel more content.
During our holidays, we may create new rituals, change the environment and enjoy life at a different pace. The disparity between who we are and how we feel during our time off can increase the higher the disconnection. What do we then need to shorten the gap? How can we bring back to our everyday living all the things we learnt during our time off?
What can we learn from our holidays to have a more fulfilling life?
If we could easily turn our lives into our dream ones, we would do so in the blink of an eye. Responsibilities around family, employment and housing are still there. Add issues around how privilege, power and oppression impact our ability and prospect to have the life we deserve. Of course, we feel stuck and have post-holiday blues.
Most times, we need an approach that would fit with our routine rather than disrupt it.
The following is a list of suggestions of actions you could implement from the things you learnt on your holidays. There is no right or wrong way to do them, nor is there an assumption that they would all work all the time. As our needs change, so do our coping strategies.
What to keep in mind:
- be gentle: take your time to see how it feels and what fits.
- experiment: if it is not fun and restful, come back to it later or get rid of it completely. If you are here reading this, it is because you are already doing things that are not working for you. Honour this need of yours to have a life that feels more attuned to your needs.
Overcome post-holiday blues: tips
Living in the here and now
Being on holiday allows you to live a life that is more connected to the present moment. Future and past stressors now take a background seat. You now have more time and space to nurture the small things that make you feel good.
Of course, this may not always be possible or doable and the present moment may not feel particularly pleasant. That said, if it is something that can work for you and you enjoyed it during your holidays, you may be interested in the following advice on how you can recreate it in your life now that your routine kicked in again.
1. yoga, meditation, mindfulness: the famous three!. Although they work for some, they may not be useful for others. So keep reading, there is much more for everyone’s taste.
2. go for a microadventure: this has all the ingredients you need to recreate that holiday vibe you are missing. It doesn’t require much planning or money and it can be done overnight.
3. turn off the tv and social media: this will allow you to sit with what you have in this exact moment in front of you, rather than drifting away to other places that are not here and not now. You can do this by limiting in time the use of these devices. You can use more drastic solutions like using an app that would block your access to your social media account for a certain amount of time. The options are endless.
Slow down and rest
If there is one thing that everyone is looking forward to when on holiday is rest. Time seems to dictate our lives less. By being free from work or work-related tasks and possibly commute, we give ourselves a chance to do things at a different pace. We tend not to cram hobbies, housework, meet-ups in the few free hours we have outside of our work commitments.
By slowing down and resting, we are taking a break from the busyness of our day, which ultimately allows us to distance ourselves from the things that are overwhelming us.
4. breathing exercises: calmer body, calmer mind
5. do one task at a time: this will allow you to create space and declutter your mind
6. move your body: sitting or standing, stretch arms and legs gently, move your wrists and ankles, your neck and shoulders. Youtube has plenty of videos that span from 5 to 60 minutes of stretching exercises for all levels and abilities. In this way, you allow tension to go, which then increases your relaxation.
7. immerse yourself in nature: this can take many forms, from walking around your local park to repot your indoor house plants.
8. take a nap or lie down: give yourself permission, even if it’s for only 15-30 minutes, to take a break from everything you are doing, especially if it is overwhelming you.
Go with the flow
Things rarely go to plan. On a day-to-day basis, stressors can limit our capacity to cope with life events. When we are on holiday though, we may realise that we are more capable to cope. Or better, we may think that consequences resulting from these events are not as impactful as they would be if we were in the middle of our routine.
Because we tend to be more relaxed on holidays, we may be more inclined to feel spontaneous, go with the flow and adapt to the ebbs and flows of life as we know it.
9. make space for your creativity: sing, draw, play, cook, do whatever helps to soothe and energise your brain. A creative mind is a resourceful one and that can come in handy when life gets harder to deal with.
10. take baby steps: going with the flow doesn’t necessarily mean doing a U-turn and throw all plans away. For example, this may look like spending time with friends longer than planned because you are having a good time. Or it may look like having a detour from your commute to stop at a place you love.
When our schedule gets busy, it’s easy to overlook what matters to us because of the pressure of getting things done.
Holidays can be a time where we connect with our dear ones, to places and ultimately to our bodies. It’s easier to tune inwardly and feel a connection with others when time and space are available to us.
11. spend time with friends and family: making time to see friends and family doesn’t have to be a task. What if you could play things by ear?
12. connect to your environment: this could take the form of nature connection, walking barefoot around the house, observing the space around you, painting/writing/composing about your environment.
13. connect to your body: everything from gentle movement, stretching or doing the body scan (Youtube has plenty of videos guiding you through us).
14. join a club: if you have a hobby or a passion, joining a club will offer you an opportunity to share this with other people with the perk of fostering connections and creating friendship.
Endings are important
Going on holidays can teach us plenty about beginnings and endings. When coming back from holidays, we may not necessarily be ready to bring the good time to an end. At times, we may power through with a bit of dread and effort.
Packing and unpacking are rituals that help us to go through these changes and to bring closure to what was to give space to what will be.
15. have rituals: you can use some of the rituals you had on your holidays or you can create new ones, for as long as they are bringing you joy and peace of mind.
16. have an object (a picture, a pebble, a product) from the holidays that you can hold when you are feeling low, to remind you of the good times.
17. remember the good time: share the good moments with friends and family.
Not everyone comes back from the holidays feeling the blues, but if this is you, I hope this blog post offered some ideas on how to move forward.
Sometimes, all we need is to put boundaries in place to allow us to move forward and to create the space we need to rest and recharge after a time off.
And if it feels like things went out of hand and you are struggling to make sense of your life after your holidays, you can always approach a counsellor to help you unpack all these feelings.
Do you have tips you would like to share? Let me know in the comments below!