Dear New Shrink,
My company restricts the number of vacation days one can accrue so this summer I finally planned a month-long getaway to use up vacation time that I was about to lose. While on vacation I had a chance to do things that I really enjoy and it has made the transition back to the office harder than ever. I have never experienced this before and am worried that it will impact my attitude around the office. What do you suggest I do to deal with my post vacation feelings?
Returning to work
Taking time away from the office is very important. While it may seem frustrating, it may actually be a blessing that some companies put limits on the amount of vacation you can accrue, thereby forcing you to take some time out of the office. Anytime we alter our environment, schedule, or activities we leave ourselves open to the possibility of change. What you are experiencing is not uncommon, but I believe it is also something very real and significant. I am glad that you are acknowledging what’s going on for you and the feelings you’re experiencing.
Vacations give us time to reflect on what we are doing with out lives. The freedom of making your own schedule and only having to respond to your needs and wants can be a welcome relief from the stress of today’s work world. Begin considering whether you’re feelings stem from the freedom you felt from your daily grind. Give yourself a few days to ease back into your schedule. One mistake we often make is planning our vacation so we get the most time away and we find ourselves rushing right back to the office. It is important to take at least one day at home before returning to the office. This can help you ease back into your routine by unpacking, organizing your home, and getting your mind and body ready for reality. In general, the longer the vacation the longer it takes to acclimate back to a normal schedule. Keep in mind that it may take time to readjust completely.
Taking time to step back and changing your daily routine can be the perfect shock to your system to get you thinking about who you are and what you want out of life. Are there ways you can integrate the best parts of your vacation into your everyday life? For instance, if this break provided you with a chance to read for pleasure, find ways to commit yourself to distraction-free reading. Set up a vacation zone at home that is intended to give you peace from daily stresses and keep that place sacred. You will be surprised how minor changes can make a major impact.
If your feelings last longer than just a few weeks, you may need a bigger shift to get the results you’re looking for. Is there something specific that you would like to be doing or just a nagging sense that you are not where you would like to be? Considering what your goals are and identifying what’s missing are the first steps to taking action and making a change. If it’s a specific activity that you were able to participate in on vacation, find ways to naturally integrate it into your life before making a major change. If it was the flexibility to make your own decisions and schedule, it may be that finding new ways to do your work may give you better results. Keep in mind that the grass may appear greener on vacation turf than it really is; see if you can find ways to sample what a new opportunity or schedule might look like before you dive in.
Keep in mind that it will take time to readjust. The fact that you were maxing out on vacation time may mean that you were way overdue for a break. Take things one day at a time and spend time to reflect and analyze your state. Good luck.
KATRINA DAVY is a Santa Monica-based professional career counselor. She has degrees from Cornell and Columbia universities. Got something on your mind? Write in! Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. All questions are kept anonymous; let us help you with your life matters.