I recently spent two glorious weeks on vacation in Italy, my longest trip since I started working full time more than ten years ago. I began the trip at a yoga retreat in Tuscany with some of my closest friends; headed south to the picturesque Amalfi Coast for some relaxation at the beach; rounded out the vacation with few days amidst the ruins and history in Rome. I laughed, I sang, I indulged, I swam, I read, I relaxed, I explored, and I cherished and enjoyed every moment in my grandfather’s homeland.
And then I came home.
Before I was ready (would I ever have been ready?), the shock of being back home, back to reality, hit me like a bottle of Chianti to the face. Re-entry was brutal. Jet lag, separation from my friends, feeling both overwhelmed and underwhelmed by my life in California…it all added up to a difficult week. I did what I could to make the process easier, and found that these seven things were saviors in improving my mood and saving my sanity:
1. Give yourself time to decompress.
If you can, take an extra day off before returning to work. Or consider coming home a day earlier so you have a day to slowly re-enter. Unpack, do laundry, grocery shop. Nothing too stressful, but taking care of some of these chores right away will make you feel better prepared to return to routine. Don't overbook your first day or two back if you don’t have to. You will be fighting jet lag and post-vacation blues; try not to make your day even more challenging.
2. Get back on your regular sleep schedule as soon as possible — plus a few extra hours.
Oh jet lag… your new companion. It may be tempting to pass out as soon as you land, but if you can stay awake until close to your normal bedtime, you'll be more likely to sleep completely through the night and not be wide awake at 4 a.m. To combat jet lag, try to add a little additional time to your sleeping for the first week or so. If you normally feel rested after seven hours, aim for eight. Melatonin helped me normalize my sleeping patterns more quickly.
3. Save the cleanse for the next week.
OK, so maybe you ate your weight in cheese and washed it down with wine at every meal (No? Just me?). So maybe your clothes are a little more snug than usual. Nothing brings you crashing down from your vacation high faster than complete deprivation of everything you enjoyed so liberally while you were away. Before you jump into your seven-day juice detox program, start slowly by re-introducing more greens and lean proteins while limiting sugar and starches. Don’t completely cut everything you enjoy out of your diet immediately. Likewise, it may not be the best time to amp up your fitness routine. Save the boot camp for next week and focus on just getting your body moving with walks or gentle yoga.
4. Treat yourself to something you didn't while you were away.
A manicure at your favorite local spot. A new movie you've been dying to see. A free outdoor summer concert in your neighborhood. Happy hour with your best friend. Something that makes you remember why you love your real life, and why you choose to live it every day.
5. Spend time with people you love.
Nothing can snap you out of a bad mood like being with the people who make you feel good, who make you laugh, you remind you of who you are. Surround yourself with positive energy and it will rub off on you. Bonus — you get to tell them all about your incredible holiday!
6. But then ... take a break from re-living your trip over and over.
You’ve uploaded your pictures to Facebook. You’ve scrolled through all of your travel companions’ albums. You’ve watched all of the videos. All you want is to go back in time and do it all over again.
Stop torturing yourself. Take a break from remembering the amazing things you did while you were away. You can always return to your memories when you're feeling less fragile.
Instead, look for at least five beautiful things in your life every day. Take pictures of them, acknowledge them, and watch as you become more present in your everyday life again.
7. Start planning your next trip!
Having something exciting to look forward to can help reduce the feelings of regret that this trip has ended. It doesn’t have to be the international trip of a lifetime; it could just be a Saturday road trip to the next town. Just putting something on your calendar that makes you smile in anticipation will help get you through the worst of the re-entry process.
After 10 days at home, I'm finally starting to feel like myself again. Going easy on myself, and allowing myself the time to readjust has made all of the difference to me.
I would love to hear what tips you have for “recovering” from your vacation. Please share below; I’m sure I'll need more help for my next trip!