After A Vacation: Fight the Back-to-Work Blues

Many of us are returning to work today or tomorrow after some vacation time.  We’re probably also facing a horrendous number of e-mails, voicemails and a stack of work to start right away, despite still having “vacation brain.”

Simultaneously, you may ask if the vacation was really worth it. But not me. The vacation is always worth it. Let me tell you why and it might help your Monday go a bit smoother.

Reframe the Back-to-Work Blues

The work will always be there. Take the long view.

If you can keep the job, the work will be there, day after day, week after week. Even when you complete a project or a cycle, you’ll move on to the next project, the next quarter, the next thing. There will always be something for you to do.

Keep that in mind and realize then that you’ll never “catch up” or “get ahead” of the work. There’s no such thing. Do the work, do it extremely well, do it on time, but take your vacations when you need to and come back to it. Your brain and body even work better given varying short and long breaks.

So stop wondering if the vacation was worth it. It was. Now just ease back into the race; it’s a slow marathon, not a sprint.


Questioning if a vacation was worth it, because it backed up work for a few days assumes that work is your real life and the rest is just superficial stuff on the periphery. Reframe that.

Your Life, as in your health, your body, your mind, your family and friends, your hobbies, your creative juices, etc. actually enable you to do your work. Yes, I know that work pays the bills, which pays for the hobbies, home and all that, but let’s not play the chicken and egg game. Your ability to do a stellar job is fueled by how well you take care of yourself. And vacations are part of taking care of yourself.

The next step in this tactic is to plot out how you’re going to continue taking care of yourself these first few days back at work.

Tactics to Fight the Back to Work Blues

Here are some ideas:

  • Savor, don’t gulp, that first cup of coffee/tea/water/protein shake. On vacation, you probably savored food and drinks. At work, you probably gulp. Today, savor.
  • Drink a glass, or 20 oz bottle, of water in the morning and another in the afternoon. Stay hydrated.
  • Keep your auto-responder on for the morning, reminding people that you just returned from vacation and that you’re still slogging through e-mails.
  • Look at e-mails systematically. Batch check e-mails, like spam, listservs, messages from marketers/solicitors, automated reports, etc.
  • Walk or stretch every 60-90 minutes.
  • Treat yourself at work and after work. At work, read e-mails from your favorite person first or work on an enjoyable assignment. At home, maybe that means a trip to the gym or a nap before dinner. Treat yourself well.

Overall, even I struggle with a Big Question that results from the back-to-work blues: How do I better integrate aspects of my life so that work and Life don’t seem so separate; so that vacations don’t feel like treason; so that there’s more flow to it all?


Photo credit: Romana Klee

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