Americans are notorious about leaving vacation days on the table. According to a 2018 article posted on the CNBC web portal, nearly half of 1,000 survey respondents polled by Bankrate did not plan to take a summer vacation. While half of those respondents cited lack of money, 22 percent claimed they could not take time off from work. It’s true that after returning from a relaxing vacation, returning to a high-stress work environment and a mountain of work can be a shock to the system. You may even feel like you need another vacation to recover.

Protect Your Mental Health after Your Vacation

If taking additional time off isn’t viable, that doesn’t leave you without options. The five strategies listed below can protect your mental health during the transition from vacation mode to the everyday work routine and beat the post-vacation blues.

Ease Back into the Routine

It’s unrealistic to expect to hit the ground running immediately after returning from a vacation. Instead, ease back into the routine while paving the way toward getting back into gear. If possible, come in a day before your planned return to sort through unread emails and written materials. Divide them into two categories: “To Do” and “To Wait” so that you’ll know what to address first once you make your official return to work.

Refrain from overfilling your work calendar for the first few days after coming back. Especially avoid the temptation of jumping into a series of meetings right away. Instead, block off time in your calendar to meet individually with key colleagues — especially those who have covered for you while you were away. You should also set aside time to return phone calls, respond to emails and correspondence in your “To Do” category and catch up on other urgent matters.

Take Breaks Throughout the Day

One of the purposes of a vacation is to relax, distress and recharge. It’s natural that your mind will still be in vacation mode when you first return to work. Rather than dismiss this mindset, utilize it during scheduled meditation breaks throughout the day. According to an article in Psychology Today, imagining yourself in a location where you experienced enjoyment yields beneficial neurological effects.

Meditation does not have to be elaborate. You don’t have to sit cross-legged on your office floor and chant if you would feel awkward doing so. It’s sufficient to lean back in your chair and close your eyes for a few moments. If possible, leave your work area entirely and step outside for sunshine and fresh air.

Your colleagues may be curious about your vacation, and you may have dozens, if not hundreds of great photos and memories. Why not share a few with your colleagues — perhaps at lunch or briefly before scheduled meetings. Unless you and your coworkers are completely under the gun, this is a great way to extend the enjoyment of your vacation for a few days longer.

Anticipate Future Time Off

Even if you love what you do, taking breaks is essential. One way of ensuring that vacations are a viable option is by planning ahead. According to “The State of American Vacation 2017,” a report produced by Project Time Off, 52 percent of workers who actively plan their vacations actually wind up taking all their allotted time off — versus just 40 percent of non-planners.

The first days of returning from your vacation represent an ideal time to plan your next period of time off from work. Even if you can’t pull off another full-fledged getaway right away, the anticipation of a long weekend a few weeks or months down the road can be enough to get you through those long, tedious meetings or endless piles of paperwork. You’ll be amazed by the benefits to your mental health.

Incorporate Your Vacation into Everyday Existence

Post-vacation letdown can give you a case of the blues. Especially if your time off was spent in an exciting or exotic location, your everyday existence can seem humdrum in comparison. Why not incorporate some of the aspects of your vacation into your regular routine? If you enjoyed eating delicious foods from another cuisine, include some of those items on your next grocery trip. These days, many grocery stores include extensive ethnic food sections. You may even have specialty stores in your location. Other commodities, such as clothing, writing papers, magazines and music can add a touch of vacation variety into your everyday life.

Recharge with Family and Friends

Numerous research studies have shown that prolonged isolation tends to feed depression. While you may be too busy at work to resume a regular social calendar right away after returning from vacation, avoid the tendency to get bogged down with work for weeks and months after your return. Instead, surround yourself with family and friends by scheduling fun activities or simply to decompress from the pressures of your work.

Your budget may be stretched thin after taking time off. Nonetheless, it’s important to make plans for fun during evenings or regular weekends, such as get-togethers with friends. Nothing elaborate or costly is necessary — a potluck dinner or an evening watching a DVD is an inexpensive way to reconnect with the important people in your life.

Welcome Back!

Planning for the time after your return from vacation can avoid the pitfalls of the post-vacation blues. Doing so can help preserve the benefits of rest, relocation and time away from work, and help you be more productive once you return.

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