Looking After Your Post-Holiday Mental Health
If you’re like me, returning from a holiday can be a problem. The extreme highs of holiday travel are met with an equally extreme low upon return. I’m sure everyone gets it to some extent, some worse than others, I tend to be in the latter. I’m not sure why my brain is wired like that, but it means I have to put things in place to cope.
I recently returned from our 3.5 week honeymoon where we travelled to Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong and Macau (check out my Instagram for honeymoon snaps!). It was an excellent trip, and my first overseas travel since I was 4 years old. I knew that once it was over I would struggle with being back, particularly with depression. So while I was away I started putting things in place to make sure my return would be easier, and I’m going to share these things in hopes that they will help someone else in the same situation.
This is what worked for me, it may or may not work for you. Feel free to adapt it and republish it if you find anything useful.
Step 1 – Make a Return Itinerary.
You make an itinerary for your holiday, but what about your return? It’s a good idea to return with a plan if you’re anticipating any depressive episodes regarding the change. Much of the steps below are adapted from my own return itinerary. It’s up to you whether you write down your plans, I didn’t, but everyone is different.
You know yourself better than anyone, so start by identifying the things you will struggle the most upon your return and what you can do to help make it easier. I knew I needed a transition period back into my normal routine but I also needed to wind down from the trip too. For me it was about getting the mix right. Very much like weening off the high of travel rather than it just ceasing abruptly.
Step 2 – Relax
I needed some down time after our honeymoon, we were on the go constantly for 3.5 weeks and we were averaging 20,000 steps daily. I knew I needed to relax and this was probably the hardest part of my return. Being at home with very little to do apart from catching up on sleep and letting my body recover.
I constantly reminded myself that relaxing was ok, and although it was different the fun wasn’t over. It was like I had to keep tricking my brain. The thing about fighting depressive episodes is it’s like splitting your personalty in two, one half is the active negotiator in the fight and the other is the antagonist.
Relaxing will eventually calm your mind too, you need to let reality sink in a little.
Step 3 – Catch Up with Friends / Family
Make plans to catch up with friends and family within the first week of your return. Be sure you’re still doing things that you may normally neglect during your normal routine, make plans for after work or on your day off. Keep the mind stimulation going with conversation. Talk about your holiday and find out what’s happened in your friend’s & family’s lives while you’ve been away. The latter helps with getting back to reality and the normal routine.
I made plans for the first week I was back, luckily I still had time off work. That’s not the case for everyone. However my wife returned to work but I made sure she was still able to do some stuff with me. We had dinner with friends, I caught up with friends for coffee and played golf with my best mate.
Step 4 – Do Fun Stuff
Do fun stuff either by yourself or with your friends and family. Do things you don’t normally do. These activities don’t have to cost money, just do things you don’t normally do. Even if you just get yourself out of the house.
Visit tourist spots in your city, there’s no reason why the adventure has to end just because you’re home.
Step 5 – Get Back Into Your Routine
Start reintegrating your routine within the first 2 days back. It doesn’t have to be everything at once. However the sooner the better. I started reintegrating my routine by going to the gym my second day back, exercise also helped keep the depressive episodes away.
Over the following week I integrated more into my routine until it didn’t actually feel like a transition. Mentally things went back to normal pretty fast.
Step 6 – Plan Your Next Trip
It’s always good to have something to look forward to, it gives you focus and purpose. If you enjoy travel and think it’s for you, then start planning your next trip, it doesn’t matter how soon or distant that trip may be, having something to focus on and aim for will help alleviate a depressive episode.
My wife and I already have plans to visit Japan and Thailand, so we’ve made some rudimentary plans for both.
Step 7 – Adapt or Change your Return Itinerary
If something isn’t working for you mentally when you return then mix up your return itinerary. As a sufferer of mental health issues, it’s imperative to play an active role in your own well being.