Many of us have been there, arriving home after seven or more glorious days away from real life. Whether you’ve returned from sipping Mai Tai’s on the beaches of Hawaii, hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, strolling through the streets of Paris, or camping at one of your state’s parks, that vacation high tucked in your suitcase or backpack soon dissipates after you’re greeted with 589 unread emails, myriad meetings and a new set of high priority problems at the office. If only I could develop a magic potion that left us filled with that break-from-the-real-world feeling, I’d be rich. Instead, I’ve combined some research with my own suggestions and offer you six tips for maintaining your vacation high.
Plan before you pack
According to research by Shawn Achor, a former lecturer at Harvard known for his talks on positive psychology, well-planned vacations lower stress. I’m a master at last-minute packing, and I think I’m pretty good at it. But, it admittedly stresses me out just a smidge, and I often forget that perfect pair of shorts, which I just did on our journey to Arizona and the Grand Canyon. I’m adopting my own advice so excuse me as I go pack for our trip that’s eight months away. Okay, maybe that’s a little extreme, but hopefully, you get the point.
Ease back into work
I think this is great advice, but I’m an abysmal failure at adhering to it. I have a tendency to leap back in and tackle it all at once. The result: after one day back it feels like I’ve never been gone. So, please take my advice and don’t do what I do. Don’t make a herculean effort and get through all your email in one day and tackle every problem waiting for your attention. Instead, prioritize. Unless it’s on fire, it will be there tomorrow and the next day and the day after that.
Haul some visual cues to work
The obvious option would be arriving back with some chocolate-covered macadamia nuts or other tasty treats representative of where you’ve been and share it with your team, forcing them to reminisce with you. Beyond that, consider purchasing a paperweight, print or some other desk ornament you can put within your site and remind yourself of your postcard-worthy vacation.
Most of us snap back to our baseline happiness level within a day or two after returning from a vacation. But psychologists say that reminiscing about a trip, even long after those around you are tired of listening, can bring deep pleasure to our present days. Flipping through a photo album or watching old video clips helps us relive the positive experience and the positive feelings we had at the time. Excuse me while I review our Grand Canyon photos, and water my souvenir cactus.
Consider a new job (really!)
Vacation is an escape from our everyday reality, our set routines, grinding responsibilities and our roles. Reentry sucks, but also brings clarity about what’s important and what we really want. For most of us, I think we feel refreshed and reenergized, ready to tackle the problems waiting on our desk. For others, it may mean a change. Frankly, our last vacation gave me perspective, so much that I’ll be transitioning out of my current job and exploring options. And, it feels great! You too may be overdue for a real change. But, I recommend not being hasty. Shake the sand or souvenirs out of your suitcase and sleep on any big decisions for a few days before taking any leaps.
Start planning the next one
Before you lose that vacation high, start thinking about where you go next. Just as you’re grinding through all those emails, throw in a thought of that gondola ride you have planned for Venice a year from now or even that camping trip that’s only six weeks away. True confession here: I grew up doing a lot of family camping, and I will admit it’s fully out of my system. Camping is not a vacation to me, but I know it is for many. Vacations come in all shapes and sizes, so whatever yours looks like, think about planning now for your next get away.
I’d love to hear your thoughts. What advice do you have for maintaining a vacation high?