You are on your summer vacation, taking in the fresh air during your leisurely beach walks and absorbing that good old vitamin D. Maybe you’re on the adventure of a lifetime, taking part in activities that you have always been looking forward to.
As you return to your daily life routine, you may have been experiencing the post-vacation blues and work block. Mina Wasfi, a people development professional, describes this feeling as “hitting the accelerator pedal after cruising on autopilot.”
Deploying science and logic, Wasfi explains that “a break from work emails and deadlines allows cortisol levels to drop, promoting relaxation. Then, you return to work. That sudden shift from sipping coconut water by the ocean to staring at a computer screen in a cubicle can cause a rapid decrease in dopamine and serotonin. The stress hormone cortisol rises again as the emails start flooding in, leading to those post-vacation blues.”
Physiologically, trying to revert back to a 9 to 5 schedule is difficult, as our internal rhythms are disrupted when vacationing. So, going back to the work environment can feel “jarring and isolating,” says Wasfi.
The good news is that we can get to the root once we understand these mechanics and strategize from there.
Here are a few tips on finding the center again and utilizing it to the best of our abilities.
BREAK THINGS DOWN
Acknowledge that returning to work after vacation is no simple task.
Recognizing that your body and mind are working to readjust can reduce guilt and frustration and allow for a more patient approach.
Similarly, breaking down tasks into smaller parts can be beneficial rather than jumping straight into bigger, challenging tasks.
Wasfi suggests starting with organization and planning.
For instance, if you’re a teacher, you might begin your first day back by outlining lesson plans or updating your grade book. If you’re in retail management, the first hours could be spent reviewing inventory or sales data. For those in healthcare, perhaps updating patient records or reviewing the latest guidelines could be the order of the day.
“This sets a stable foundation for the coming days,” he adds.
With each completed task, this reinforces feelings of accomplishment and motivation in the brain’s natural reward system.
TAKE A DEEP BREATH
Practice mindfulness to improve focus and cognitive function. “Utilizing mindfulness techniques helps you concentrate better,” says Wasfi.
He provides a software developer as an example, who could practice deep breathing for a few minutes between coding sessions. If you’re a stay-at-home parent juggling chores and childcare, pause for a five-minute guided meditation when the kids are occupied. A chef might find a quiet corner in the busy kitchen for a few minutes to clear the mind with a simple mindfulness exercise.
SLOTTING TIME FOR DIFFERENT THINGS
It can be easy to get overwhelmed when juggling tasks and time. So, take a step back, look at your schedule, and slot in timings for certain tasks.
“Allocating specific times for tasks heightens your productivity,” says Wasfi. If you’re a financial analyst, reserve your mornings for data collection and afternoons for data interpretation. Gardeners could dedicate early hours to planting, midday for maintenance, and late afternoon for customer interactions.
“This will safeguard your attention and make multitasking a thing of the past,” adds Wasfi.
THE TWO-MINUTE RULE
Small wins also matter; we all need them to keep going. “Completing tasks that take less than two minutes immediately boosts your sense of accomplishment,” says Wasfi.
For a lawyer, this might mean quickly responding to a client’s email about a meeting time. If you’re in the service industry, maybe it’s confirming reservations for the evening. For a researcher, it could be jotting down that quick idea for an upcoming project before it slips your mind.
“These quick wins create a positive feedback loop in your brain, enhancing motivation,” he adds.
REAP THE BENEFITS
Interestingly, you can take your vacation as a learning experience and reap the benefits. This can be achieved by reflecting on what has helped you de-stress during your vacation and implementing it in your daily routine even when you’re back.
“Maintaining some elements of vacation, like taking short breaks to relax or continuing a hobby enjoyed during the time off, preserves the beneficial effects of time off,” says Wasfi
“Regaining motivation at work after vacation is not about suppressing the vacation mindset and forcing yourself into work mode. It’s about understanding the delicate interplay of your mind and body and creating a bridge between the relaxed and focused, work-oriented states,” he adds.
“This science-backed approach will enhance your overall work performance and satisfaction. Whether it’s the office worker who continues to enjoy beachside yoga routines or the architect who integrates vacation-inspired designs, recognizing and respecting this transitional phase makes all the difference.”
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