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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Work-Life Balance

How to Come Back From Vacation and Not Want to Die


I’ve just come back from a month in Portland, Oregon, and let me tell you, leaving the 80-degree heat, clear blue skies, friendly smiles, delicious food, and big welcomes and coming home to the beautiful laughable English weather, crappy service, bad attitudes, and indifferent shrugs has been quite the challenge.

You may be just about to go away (you lucky thing), or you may be about to return home. Either way, if you want to come back from vacation to real life without wanting to throw yourself under a bus, here are some ideas.

Clean Before You Go

You know how you step back through your office door after vacation and the place looks a little weird? You think, “Geez, is this what it really looks like?” That sense of seeing your place with fresh eyes becomes a pretty horrible experience when you come back to find it in a real mess. Piles of folders, mail spilling out of your inbox, last week’s four used coffee cups, and who knows what in that bowl you forgot to wash.

I think better in a clean space, so coming home to organization rather than chaos helps my thinking right from the start. Giving your workspace a once-over before you leave makes sure you can ease into a pleasant environment when you return.

Remember Resistance is Futile

The worst thing you can do is to resist your circumstances when you return home. I’m not suggesting that you pretend everything’s peachy and perfect, but flapping your wings against the bars of an imaginary cage isn’t going to get you far.

The only cage is the one you perceive in your head, and resisting, struggling, and fighting against where you are is only going to make you feel worse and make that feel more real. In fact, it’s only by engaging with your environment that you get to enjoy it. So when you find yourself resisting work, meetings, or even heading to the office in the morning, make a conscious choice to throw yourself back in the game.

Find the Fun

Work, bills, squabbles, pressure, and routine. None of that sounds like a heap of fun, does it? There’s sometimes the sense that when you get home from vacation, the fun ends and you have to buckle back down to life and work.

But to hell with that.

Take a new class, get involved in a new project, make a new friend, head to a new spot on the weekend, laugh with your colleagues. Go where the fun is. It might even be better than your vacation.

Keep in Touch

When you visit friends on vacation, everyone says that they’ll have to keep in touch and that they have to do it more often, but then life gets in the way and that intention fizzles out. But if you’ve been visiting with friends and had a ball, it doesn’t take a lot of effort to stay in touch.

Before you leave, get a Skype call on the calendar for every couple of months to catch up, laugh, and swap stories. It’ll keep that sense of energy going.

Change Things Up

Routine is familiar, safe, and comforting, but it’s also dull as dishwater sometimes. There might once have been good reason why you do things a certain way (the route you take to work, where you get lunch, who you talk with in the office, even how you get ready in the mornings), but that’s no reason why they have to stay that way.

So how can you change things up? Maybe take a new route to work, listen to an audiobook instead of the radio, set your alarm 15 minutes earlier to stretch or meditate, go talk with a colleague instead of emailing, or look for a new way to manage your to-do list. Changing things up is how you keep things fresh.

Chuck it Out

I’ve emptied two chests of drawers, cleared out my desk, and binned most of the contents of my spare room since I got back home. All that stuff that’s accumulated over the last 15 years that I thought might come in handy one day? Gone.

There’s something liberating about chucking out old stuff that you’ll never need (and feel free to donate the good stuff or make a few extra bucks from eBay). It not only clears physical space that makes it easier to move and breathe, but getting rid of old baggage can free you up emotionally, too.

Remember How You Were

You felt pretty good on vacation, right? At ease. Free. Like you could just be you. Perhaps you felt like things were flowing, like you were slap-bang in the middle of a moment, and that was all you needed. Maybe you felt like the person you’d love to be more often—peaceful, buzzing, or alive.

How you are on vacation is typically how you are when you’re at your best. You let go of all the stuff that doesn’t matter and just are. The good news is, you can do that whenever and wherever—it just takes a little letting go.

Try it this week at work. You might be surprised.