Do you feel “down” after going on vacation? Studies show that a third of all adults are affected by post-vacation depression. And our funk lasts a week or two, about 1.5 times the length of the vacation. It’s even been nicknamed “the vacation blues” or the “vacation hangover.” So why do we feel down after a week of rest and relaxation? 

Psychologists say it’s an example of the “contrast effect.” That means, when we’re on vacation, we’re basically stress-free. So when we return to the daily grind, we react more strongly to stress because we had a week to detox from it. It shocks our system, and makes us feel more overwhelmed and upset than we typically would. It’s like going off sugar for a week, and then drinking a soda. It tastes overpoweringly sugary.  

We also get the post-vacation blues when we don’t get good feedback from our friends. We usually feel like we had a wonderful vacation. But when we tell family, friends and coworkers about it, if their response is luke warm, it makes us feel like we really didn’t have that great of a time after all, or we didn’t do enough fun things. 

So how can you combat the post-vacation blues? 

  • Plan a one-day buffer between getting home and going back to work. That way, you’ll have a day to catch up on chores and answer emails, so your first day back on the job won’t seem as jarring. 

  • Also, bring a picture with you to work. It’s not to show everyone else what a great time you had, it’s to remind you. Studies have shown that picturing yourself where you felt good can bring you back to that feel-good-spot mentally. 

  • And then plan your next trip, even if it’s just a long weekend. One of the biggest reasons for the post-vacation blues is that it may be another year before you go away again. But if you have something to look forward to, even just a long weekend, you’ll get the pre-vacation happiness boost all over again.