Ah, summer — a truly wonderful word. A season filled with meals that linger, travels to far away places, road trips with the windows down, walks throughout the city that are punctured with pitstops at ice cream stores — so much gOoDnEsS. Recently, a friend and I who are traveling together were out to dinner and groaning about returning to the “real world” where work-life balance tends to skew heavily towards the former. We both LOVE our jobs, but the easy stress-free days spent on vacation make this brief period of time difficult to let go.
When I worked at an office job, there was a very clear “back to work” moment that happened when I physically walked into the office. This truly does snap you back to reality, and not always in the most pleasant way. However, now that I freelance full-time, the lines between work and play have blurred, and pulling yourself up out of post-vacation stupor can be a challenge. Maybe you work in a traditional office setting, maybe you’re a freelancer, or maybe you’re a teacher who still has a couple weeks left before heading back to school. Regardless of what your working situation looks like, there are a number of ways you can help yourself out of the post-summer slump.
Below are five ways you can wean yourself off the vacation mode mindset and get yourself back into the swing of the working world. You can follow these concrete steps to make touching back down in the land of the living, not so painful.
Implement the best elements of your trip into your daily life.
Traveling is a beautiful thing. It allows you to see new cultures, people, places, and ways of life that are entirely different from what you’re accustomed to. It’s a privilege to see life through a new lens and change up your routine. Each time I return back from a trip, I try to draw out the best elements of what I experienced and apply them more permanently into my daily life. For example, in traveling abroad and not having 24/7 internet, I’ve learned the value of not being on my phone when lying in bed. I sleep much better when I end the night with a book rather than a screen. I also plan on bringing the ritual of the aperitif home with me (something friends here have turned me on to), and focusing on appreciating the moments leading up to a meal. These changes can enhance your everyday life using what you learned while traveling.
Unpack your suitcase, do laundry, and clean what you need to, as soon as possible.
This is more for you own state of mind rather than anything else. I admit, I used to be one of those people who returned home from a vacation and a week later, still has shit sitting in a pile inside a suitcase, parked in the corner of the room. I was super lazy about doing laundry, cleaning my shoes, and unpacking everything once and for all. I didn’t want to deal with it because it was painful to face the reality that vacation was over. Nowadays, I enjoy the feeling of arriving back home on a Sunday afternoon and dumping everything out on the floor to deal with it as soon as I can. It provides a sense of closure, a way for me to move forward mentally, and allows me to remember the vacation with fondness rather than feeling like it’s a burden to clean up.
Tackle a side hustle with ferocity.
There’s nothing like a trip abroad to make you think, “damn, I want traveling to be a seriously big part of my life from here on out.” Every time I go abroad I think of ways I can earn extra money, and work my ass off to make traveling more often a reality. This post-vacation mentality of wanting to work as hard (and smartly) as I can is the perfect kind of energy to channel into a side hustle. Attack that new business plan with vigor, email, network, call, and contact people who can help get to where you’re going. If you want to live abroad for a few years, start laying the ground work that will help you get there. Have a craft you’re great at making/producing? Figure out a way to package and sell it. There are tons of ways to make extra $$$, and if you want to earn yourself the freedom to travel frequently, it’s on you to figure out how to do it.
Get back on your fitness game slowly, and don’t punish yourself for having indulged.
For me, vacation means simply enjoying the food I want to. Obviously, eating like a king day-in and day-out is not heathy, but indulging in treats (often) is something that I celebrate while I’m away.
Sampling the local cuisine, coffee, pastries, produce, and breads is, in my mind, one of the most integral parts of traveling. Enjoy it for what it is. While you might fall a bit behind on your fitness regime, or routine eating habits, don’t beat yourself up over it. Enjoy every last crumb of that still-warm croissant from the boulangerie, and seek out ways to be active wherever you can. When you get back home, slowly incorporate the exercise you might have slacked off on, and remember all the insanely delicious foods you ate while doing so =)
Set realistic expectations for what you can get done when heading back into the office.
You are simply NOT going to get through all of your missed emails in one day. Unless you’ve been checking them semi-frequently for the duration of your travels, it’s more likely than not that you will be greeted with an inbox stuffed with unread emails. Take it slow, and read the flagged or the ones marked “important” first. If you were CCed on something last week, chances are the project has come and gone. Sit on those emails for a bit until the most pertinent ones have been dealt with, then go back and revisit them for a more thorough read. I used to feel like a failure if I wasn’t 100% up to speed after the first day back. But, as I’ve gotten older I’ve realized that the world (shockingly) doesn’t end in the week I’m gone. Plowing through emails completely on day one doesn’t deserve to be such a strong source of anxiety. Now, I take the time I need to get through my inbox, and I don’t rush to simply get back to baseline.
Everyone eases back into “real life” post vacation at a different pace. While we still have a bit more of summer left, it’s always good to feel prepared with a plan of action to help yourself switch gears. Don’t let the stresses of day-to-day work chip away at your peace of mind. Summer vacations are great for hitting the reset button, but make sure you take the steps you need to keep moving forward. After all, some of the beauty of summer lies in the fact that it’s fleeting, doesn’t it?