Take it Slow: How to Unwind and Recharge After A Vacation
This post was created in partnership with Molecule. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Keep scrolling for a special offer for all Rachel Off Duty readers!
Being on the road can be as exhausting as it is exhilarating. Your body, your emotions, and your mind are all functioning at maximum capacity trying to take in and experience as many new things as possible in a short amount of time. Some people may think of traveling as just a vacation, but those people would be wrong! While it’s always a blast to go somewhere new, it’s a lot more work than many give it credit for (and I mean that with the utmost love, but this is real talk). Have you ever experienced the need to take a vacation from your vacation? Most of us do, but some of us ignore the urge to relax when we get back, because it’s way too tempting to open up your inbox as soon as you get home and just dive right back in. Don’t. It’s incredibly important to be gentle on yourself when you get back home from being on the road, even if it means just giving yourself a few hours or a day to unplug and unwind.
But, like all good, sweet things, this is often easier said than done.
The last two months have been pretty hectic for me. Earlier this year, I made a decision to spend more time exploring the US, since I’d previously been so consumed by getting out of the country. Now, almost all the way through the year, I’d say I’ve done a pretty good job so far, taking a chance at every spare weekend I could. In the last 2 months alone, I visited Alaska, Virginia, DC, Maryland, New York, and Texas. And while I’ve loved every minute of each trip and wouldn’t have it any other way, let’s face it–I’ve been exhausted. And frequently so. In the past 2 months, I got sick twice and needed to take more than 1 work-from-home day after a few of my trips, which is incredibly unlike me. That lifestyle can’t fly for long, so I sought out to put an end to it.
So, how do you unwind after traveling in a way that gets you back on track in as little time as possible? Here are some things I’ve started doing to beat the post-vacation burn-out.
How to Unwind and Recharge After a Vacation
1. Give Yourself a Buffer Day
Let’s start off with something I definitely don’t do enough: scheduling a buffer day after you get home from a vacation. This is a tough one, because if you have limited time to travel in the first place, odds are you’re going to want to take advantage of every last possible second you have before you pack up and come home. I don’t blame you. In fact, I do the same thing. But, it’s definitely not human nature to be able to bounce back from one schedule to the next with no down time in between. Your body and mind need time to re-acclimate. If you can, plan to come home from your trip a little earlier, or try to schedule in some time between when you land and when you need to head back to work to just chill. Even if it’s just half a day, that little bit of ‘you’ time goes a long way in getting you in the right headspace to get back into the swing of things without spiraling into a post-vacay depression.
2. Zen Out Your Space
One of my favorite things to do after I come home from being away for an extended period of time is changing my sheets and making my bed, even if it’s just to crawl back into it and take a nap. It’s sort of my way of starting a new chapter, as if to say that dirty bed sheets symbolize the person I was before I went out and saw the world. It may sound crazy, but tell me the last time you changed your sheets and didn’t feel instantly more relaxed and refreshed?
Recently, I got an all-white sheet set from Molecule. Because I need to make every hour count when I sleep so I can bounce back and be on my A-game, having things like a good pillow or a good set of sheets is a game-changer. I tried these sheets out after I got back from Austin, Texas a few weeks ago and was blown away, because not only are they silky soft, but they also help regulate my temperature so I can sleep without worrying about needing to wake up to change the AC temperature throughout the night (a must for me, because I always overheat!).
My ideal day post-trip consists of making my bed, unpacking, lighting a candle, and crawling under the covers with a book or two. No inbox-clearing, no clutter, no stress. Allow yourself to be a little lazy – your body craves it more than you think.
3. Treat Yourself
Some of the first things I think about when I get home are 1. how I’m going to get back on track with my workout schedule, and 2. When I’m going to go to the grocery store so I can stop eating out. Obviously, these things are important, but they don’t need to be addressed the minute you land. Most of the time, the last thing I want to do is cook the day I get back from a trip. So, I’ll usually eat out or grab something to-go. Ideally, something I’ve been craving for a while that reminds me of home, like In-N-Out or pizza from my neighborhood favorite. Life’s short. I say why not extend your vacay 1 more day, even if it’s just through food?
4. Debrief Your Vacation
It’s weird. When you get back from being anywhere, you feel this sense of pent-up energy and uneasiness bubbling up in the pit of your stomach that you just don’t know how to digest. You’ve seen and done so much, you’ve explored the world and opened your eyes to things you’d only dreamt of doing and seeing, and then you get home, and everything – literally everything – feels the same. Tavel can sometimes make me feel a bit emotionally distant from my home, because I’ve changed, and it hasn’t. This is how post-travel depression starts. It starts when we have all these thoughts, inspiration, energy, zest for life after coming home from a new place, but we think we have no way to express it within the confines of our ‘reality.’
This is why it’s so, so important to debrief, not just physically by sleeping off the jet-lag, but emotionally, too. As soon as you get home, journal about your experience. Call your mom or your friend or tell your significant other about how you feel and what you did. Take the souvenir postcards you bought at the tourist trap in Cannes and hang them up on your wall. Make your memories visceral by manifesting them through writing, talking, or physical mementos. By keeping them alive and sharing them with other people, you get to relive your time and actually make your experience matter to more people than just yourself. And hey, who cares if your friends can no longer stand it when you start a story with “this one time in Greece…”? Truth is, they’re just jealous they don’t have their own annoying Greece story to share and relive.
5. Don’t Stack Your Plate too High
It’s tempting to want to dive head-first into the pile of stuff that was neglected while you were away. There’s unchecked emails, unread texts, unfinished laundry... the list goes on. But – and this may sting a bit – did the world keep turning while you were gone? Did anything completely fall apart? Or was everything, for the most part, able to carry on, business as usual? Odds are, it did. So don’t feel like you have to rush to put the pieces back together within hours of getting home. Ease back into it. Rest, leave your Out-Of-Office on while you read through your emails and catch up, and make a to-do list for the full week so you can spread all of your tasks out across 5 days, rather than desperately trying to get it all out of the way in 1. The world will keep turning, and you’ll catch up before you know it.
Taking it easy after a vacation can sometimes be the hardest thing in the world, but if you don’t, you run the risk of burning out and falling into a post-depression schlump. So, the next time you step off a plane, buy yourself some ice cream, grab a book, crawl into your freshly-made bed, and do absolutely nothing. The emails will still be there when you’re ready for them.
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