Ah, the joys of vacation – sun-soaked beaches, adventurous escapades and the blissful break
from daily routine and responsibility. But as the vacation glow begins to fade, we tend to
experience what is known as the ‘vacation fade out effect’. The vacation fade -out effect refers to the gradual decline in positive emotions and overall well-being that occurs after a vacation and most research studies note that the levels of well-being gained from a vacation return to their pre-vacation levels within one month.
Gone unchecked, the fade out effects can turn into a mean case of the post-vacation blues,
which can leave us feeling drained, demotivated, and longing for the carefree days when our
biggest decision of the day was, “Should I do the beach or the pool today?”
But fret not! In this guide, we’ll delve into the science behind the vacation fade out effect,
explore its psychological underpinnings, and most importantly, equip you with practical
strategies to minimize its impact and smoothly transition back into your routine.
Understanding the Vacation Fade Out Effect
While it might seem counterintuitive to feel down after a vacation, there are several
psychological factors at play:
End of Novelty: During vacations, we engage in new experiences, explore unfamiliar surroundings, and break away from the monotony of daily life. As we return to our usual routine, we can experience feelings of boredom and dissatisfaction.
Emotional Contrast: The stark contrast between vacation bliss and the mundane, stressful, or demeaning realities of our everyday lives can exacerbate the post-vacation blues. The sharp shift from relaxation and excitement to the demands of work and responsibilities can trigger feelings of sadness and disillusionment.
Reevaluation of Priorities: While on vacation, we disconnect from work-related stressors and focus on our personal well-being. This break from routine can prompt reflection and a reevaluation of our life choices, leading to a sense of discontent upon returning.
Social Comparison: The prevalence of social media exacerbates the vacation fade-out effect by fostering social comparison. Seeing other’ highlight reels and exotic getaways can engender feelings of envy or inadequacy if you feel your own vacation didn’t quite measure up.
Strategies to Minimize the Post-Vacation Blues
The good news is that there are several proactive steps you can take to minimize the vacation fade out effect and ease your transition back to reality. Let’s explore these strategies:
Plan a Gradual and Graceful Return: When making your travel plans, be sure to allocate a buffer day between coming home and your first day back to work. Make sure you give yourself enough time to unpack, rest and mentally plan for re-entering the work environment.
Ease into Work Tasks: If you are at all able, try scheduling lighter days at work once you return. Understand that the transition back may feel a little bumpy. Set realistic expectations for your post-vacation productivity and don’t “undo” all the good that your vacation did by overexerting yourself with long hours to “catch up”.
Integrate Positive Habits: Identify the aspects of your vacation that contributed to your well-being – whether it was daily walks, reading or taking the time to savor more sunsets, figure out a way to integrate these positive habits into your daily life.
Plan Mini-Adventures: Be intentional about injecting a sense of novelty into your daily life once you return. Try out that new Thai place, try ax-throwing – whatever it is, gather up some friends and together, break up the monotony of the daily routine and spark some excitement. In a research study that looked at teachers’ vacation effects, it was found that those who ensured that they scheduled leisure time relaxation experiences after vacation delayed the fade-out of beneficial effects as compared to those teachers who did not.
Limit Social Media Exposure: To avoid falling into the comparison trap, limit your usage of social media, especially immediately after your vacation.
Maintain a Travel Journal: Keeping a travel journal can be therapeutic and help you to relive your vacation experiences. Documenting your adventures, thoughts, and feelings during the trip allows you to reconnect with those memories even after you’re back home.
Set New Goals: Channel your post-vacation energy into setting new goals for yourself. Whether they are related to work, personal growth, or hobbies, having something that motivates and interests you can keep those vacation good feels going.
The vacation fade-out effect is a common but manageable phenomenon that can cast a shadow over the blissful memories of your getaway. But by understanding the psychological factors that contribute to your post-vacation blues and implementing some of the strategies outlined in this article, you can navigate your transition back to reality with greater ease.
Remember, the key is to savor the positive aspects of your vacation, integrate its valuable lessons, and approach your return with a mindset of self-compassion and proactive planning. With the right approach, you can prolong the benefits of your vacation long after you’ve unpacked your bags.