Vacations are awesome. Returning from them generally isn't.
Thanks to overflowing inboxes, backed-up calendars, and inevitable but highly unflattering comparisons between your cubicle and your recently occupied beach chair, coming back to work can sometimes be so awful it makes you wonder if going away was even worth it.
But it doesn't have to be that way, according to experts. They claim it is possible to ease your way back into work in such a way that you can keep that post-vacation glow going. How? Here are a few of their top tips:
You might not be able to be physically back at the beach, but you can be there mentally. Such daydreaming is a healthy and effective strategy to keep your holiday buzz going, reports The New York Times: "Psychologists say that reminiscing about a trip, even long after it's over, can bring deep pleasure in the present."
Just don't torture those who were stuck at the office while you were away with all those luscious pictures of your travels. Pore over them alone and savor the memories.
2. Schedule your return with care.
"Plan an activity during your first few days back that's a little out of your ordinary routine, like a nice dinner out during the middle of the week," Teri Bourdeau, a professor at Oklahoma State University's Center for Health Sciences, advises on the Huffington Post.
Or try this trick from career expert Nicole Williams: "Many experienced travelers like to get home on a Friday or Saturday, allowing themselves the weekend to re-acclimatize. If you give yourself a few days to get your personal life in order, then whatever awaits you at the office might not seem so overwhelming."
3. Choose a vacation theme song.
I love this suggestion, via Glamour: "While you're away, choose a song that will become your vacation theme song, one you can play back when you're in need of a two-minute 'mini-retreat' at the office," Lauren E. Miller, author of 5 Minutes to Stress Relief told the magazine. "When things get stressful at work, put the ear phones on and play that song--it will bring you back to a more relaxed mind-set."
4. Limit the pile up.
One of the worst things about returning to work is the pileup of emails and commitments you're likely to face, so take proactive measures to try and make the backlog as manageable as possible your first days back.
"There's nothing worse than coming back from vacation and jumping right into back-to-back meetings," time management expert Nancy Colter tells Glamour. "Try to limit meetings, lunches and dinners on your first three or four days back and plan to leave work on time--this will help you hang on to the vacation feeling longer."
Also, try to keep your inbox from getting out of control. Can you pass off certain clients or types of email to an assistant or colleague while you're away? Can warn particular people you'll be on vacation and ask them to hold off on contacting you until after you're back? Or try this more radical solution from VC Brad Feld if you dare: after warning correspondents with an autoresponder, just delete the whole lot when you return to work.
5. Plan your next one.
If all else fails, you can ease your re-entry shock by hopping back online break and ogling potential destinations for next year. "Time away may have made you realize how much you truly love to travel or how nourishing it was to spend time with your chosen travel companions. Ask yourself how you can make that happen more," suggests the Huffington Post.
"You don't have to harbor that sense of 'I need another vacation' dread if you're already getting started organizing your next trip," the site sensibly points out.
What's your top tip for making returning to work less painful?