Attitude,  Gratitude,  Vacation

Post-Vacation Blues: How to Deal with Going Back to Work and Reality


Though I’ve always thought Post-Vacation Depression was a real thing, most psychologists now agree that “Vacation Hangover” is a more accurate term.

Cue the lime and celery.

“Post-travel depression is not a legitimate mental health issue,” said Jeroen Nawijn of the Centre for Sustainable Tourism and Transport. “In my own study that dealt with post-trip effects, I found no proof of post-travel depression.”

But in my research I learned that for some people, experiencing Vacation Blues is a very real thing and may result in tiredness, loss of appetite, strong feelings of nostalgia, and in some cases, depression.

See? I’m not loco, I’m nostalgic.

But I’m also feeling slightly funky. Not like I want my white boys to play funky music—more like I’m out of sorts. My lengthy list of “pay attention to me” items includes kids in U.S. schools for the first time, a backyard full of boxes and bins begging to be unpacked from our recent move, modest culture shock, and a blog and book needing more love.

And though I feel like a loser admitting this, instead of tackling my list head on and working dawn till dusk to make a significant dent and be able to smile at myself in the mirror, I find myself missing our killer vacation and walking toward things that don’t truly matter.

Sound familiar? If you’ve recently spent time with the innards of your vacuum, the out-ards of your trashcans, the bottom of your feet or the top of your fridge, you get me.

These tendencies can go by the name avoidance, circumvention or evasion. I prefer denial. This fantastic word levels the playing field, smacks foreheads with force, and exposes even the most private among us.

It also keeps men combing their dozen hairs over, and keeps women wearing banana clips, but let’s move on.


Take Action

When researching this subject I was disappointed to find the majority of articles included this advice for dealing with post-vacay depression:

“Research your next excursion!”

“Plan your next trip!”

“Book your next vacation!”

Since that’s not a reality for everyone, I dug deeper for unconventional ideas and then came up with some of my own. Even if you’ve been home for weeks, your kids went back to school and you feel like you should have snapped out of it by now, it’s okay if easing back into reality takes a while.

In the mean time….

1. Frame Your Favorite Memories

If your last vacation or family photo has hung on your wall since 1998, it might be time to get a few pictures off your phone and into a frame. Seeing memories of your trip can evoke nostalgia and enhance your mood!


2. Clean Out Your Closet

Yes, living out of a suitcase is a pain in the buttocks, but it reminds me how much I can live without. Next time you come back from a trip, look at the clothes you left behind and ask yourself why they didn’t make the cut. If they’re part of your current season’s wardrobe but you keep avoiding them, maybe it’s time to say adios and give them a new casa.

Even though I will forever be a fan of Clutter Free, The KonMari Method is fantastically brilliant too, a best seller on Amazon, and a hit on YouTube. These two experts will help kick your booty into gear and kick your excess to the curb.


3. Sweat

No doubt about it: endorphins are faithful friends, providing legal highs in every state. Even if you’re not sporting a cupcake top, do your brain a favor and get your body moving forward. No need to strive for craze-o, marathon, bodybuilder status; just do something.


4. Re-create a Favorite Meal from Your Trip

Research suggests memory and food are intricately tied. Maybe that’s why my husband remembers what we ate on our honeymoon 23 years ago. If you’re currently lacking mental space or energy to make a full vacation meal, ease in with an appetizer and toast your way back to bliss.


5. Make Gratitude a Verb

Although it might sound elementary, zooming out and reminding yourself of your big picture helps. Are you thankful for the vacay you took? Are you loved? Do you have health? Are you surrounded by nature?

Keep going and then jot your thankful points. Sticky notes on our walls or a gratitude journal by our beds remind us to be thankful for what we have, so we can stop whining thinking about what we don’t.

I don’t care if you live on a fancy street and drive a Rolls, or roll in a minivan and live in the backseat. We can all think of something to give thanks for.


6. Connect with Humans—In Person

Social media doesn’t help much when we’re feeling down. No need to drop 94 bucks on dinner just to connect with another soul though. Exercise together, meet for coffee/tea/chai or visit shut-ins. In short: let’s take the focus off ourselves, look outward and watch the love grow.

If you’ve visited Starbucks everyday this month, bought a couple new outfits and are watching Cheers reruns with Ben and Jerry but can’t shake the depressed feeling, take heart. Experts say your post-vacay hangover should dissipate in about a week. Seven days tops.

Then you can get back to giving thanks for the details in your daily reality. I’ll go first:

Thank you, Lord, for avocados, air conditioning and friends who get us. Amen, amen–guac for the win.


What did I miss? Do you have a remedy for a post-vacay hangover? Do tell!


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  • Heidi

    Hi Carrie,

    I got the link to your blog from Jeannie Baker… I’ve been friends with the Bakers since 1989. Lucia and I were classmates and friends! I have heard your name many times over the past many years, as we attend church with Matthew and Lisa Owens… I think you guys are good friends. I knew there was a connection because I knew Heidi Vomsteeg growing up… and that name is pretty uncommon. I’m not sure what year Doug graduated from Hemet High, but my sister was Class of ’88… she died in 1989.

    Anyway, I just wanted to introduce myself! I read some of your blog just now and I am inspired by your ability to write and connect with others! You truly have a gift.

    As far as Post-Vacation blues, I definitely experience that every year… my son does too. I appreciate all your advice and funny ways of encouraging others!

    I hope we’ll be able to meet in person someday…
    Heidi (Person) Anderson 🙂

    • Carrie Talbott

      Oh my goodness, Heidi… thanks for making the connection! So cool that you’re local; we love the Owens family. And how funny that you’ve known the Bakers for so long. Small world indeed. I looked for you on FB and you look so familiar. I’m sure with all our common friends we must have met somewhere.

      Yes–VomSteeg is not exactly common, so pretty much every one you hear of is related to Doug. 🙂 He graduated in ’86, but I’ll have to ask him if he knew your sister. Sorry you lost her, especially at such a young age.

      Thanks for your compliments about my writing. It’s a ton of work but very satisfying when I’m connecting with readers and friends. Hope to see you soon!

  • Alice Mills

    These are some really great ideas, actually. I try to bring something back that I like looking at to remind me. I want my home to be a collection of beautiful memories.

    • Carrie Talbott

      Thanks, Alice. I like your idea of returning with something, as long as I’m not adding to my clutter with 6″ magnets and another bracelet with my name on it. 🙂

    • Carrie Talbott

      Thanks for chiming in, Chris! Glad you liked the ideas. I checked out your website and thought your About Me section was particularly clever. Keep writing–your blues will most likely turn teal and then bam–you’ll be golden. Thanks for sharing on your page!

  • Jane S Daly

    Yes! Cleaning the closet, your kitchen cabinets, or under the bathroom sink will pull you out of the post-vacation blues. AND you’ll have the feeling of accomplishment.

    • Carrie Talbott

      Gracias, amiga. Loved seeing you, too. Wish it could have been longer so we could chat about author stuff.

  • Amber

    I think it’s normal to do avoidance deep cleaning while you mentally process. But that’s just me.

    Welcome back to the States!