Coming home from 7 weeks of sleepcamp camp, a week in North Carolina, or a month in Sardinia all have one equal outcome – a bit (or a lot) of the post vacation blues. Luckily we have psychologist Dr. Daniel Glazer to give us some tips from handling it before it even comes on!
1. Log your memories
One of the most rewarding elements of a vacation is the memories we bring back with us. Traveling can offer both life-changing experiences, and even just simple moments of bliss. Scrapbooking, journaling or creating a photo album is a great way to reflect and reminisce on these moments. In fact, crafts like scrapbooking and journaling can provide cognitive benefits, improving memory and providing a form of stress relief. If you’re not into crafts, another option is simply uploading your memories to social media. This will allow you to show gratitude for your experiences, while also acting as a form of self-expression and relationship-building. However, it’s well worth noting that balance is important here, and time online, especially using social media, should be limited both in length and to content that fulfills you.
*CAMP MOM NOTE: Sleepaway camp parents can save all their campanion camp pix and have an album waiting on their bed when they come home from camp – so they see those memories are never lost. We like this cute app called Recently (use discount code 6a4346 for $5 off your magazine) which turns your online pix into a cool, high fashion feeling magazine – but some prints off your phone at a CVS kiosk with a dollar store album on their bed works well too! A welcome home sign is also a happy mood lifter – keep it up for at least a week to show them how happy you are that they are back.
2. Bring your experiences home with you
Traveling is a great opportunity to explore new experiences from hobbies, to learning a language or tasting new foods – but we often forget about these as soon as we step foot off the plane. But there can be enormous mental health benefits to learning new things. Learning a new skill helps to boost confidence, and gives a sense of purpose and studies have found people engaged in learning report feeling better about themselves and have a greater ability to cope with stress. Bringing home some of your newfound skills, hobbies or experiences can also help you to look back fondly on your time away. Consider continuing to learn the local language of the place you visited, learning to cook your favorite dish from your time away, or continuing with any hobbies you may have tried such as water sports or crafts.
*CAMP MOM NOTE: Sign them up for a course/class/ sport that they did at camp that was new to them and they showed interest in.
3. Spend time with loved ones
For some people, heading away abroad is a perfect opportunity to meet new people and build connections with others. Humans are social animals, used to being part of groups and so time spent with others can be key to our wellbeing. In fact, it’s been reported that direct person-to-person contact triggers parts of our nervous system that release a “cocktail” of neurotransmitters tasked with regulating our response to stress and anxiety. If you’ve come back from a vacation and find yourself feeling lonely or isolated on your return, make sure to plan in time with friends and family. It’s also a great opportunity to share your experiences and show gratitude for your time away.
*CAMP MOM NOTE: Give them a day or two to do nothing – then book a welcome home back yard bbq, pool party, or group play date so they get back into the swing of things and don’t start missing their camp besties too terribly right away. If it’s an option, make a plan with their camp besties before school starts so they know those relationships aren’t over – they are forever.
4. Avoid unhealthy habits
When we go away, we often change our habits entirely, and not always for the better. Many people stay up late, drink more and abandon routine. When you return, it’s important to be mindful about how much you are drinking, especially if you’re experiencing a low mood, given that alcohol is a depressant. Consider swapping to mocktails and finding low, or no-alcohol drinks that you genuinely enjoy to ensure you form a healthy habit. Alongside this, when we’re in vacation mode, plenty of us also stay up later than normal and go without as much sleep. But on our return, it can be difficult to return to our normal routine. This can be exasperated if you’re also experiencing jet lag. However, sleep is essential for our wellbeing with one study finding inadequate sleep was associated with significantly increased odds of frequent mental distress. Therefore, try to return to routine as soon as possible and make use of pre-bedtime relaxation techniques to ensure you can drift off easier.
*CAMP MOM NOTE: Get them slowly back to their school year bedtime routine. Not straight away, but slowly (in 30 minute increments) lower their bedtime from those 11pm camp late nights so when the school year hits, they’re not in shock over the 6am wake ups. The more sleep they get, the better. Camp is exhausting, some kids will sleep for a week when they get home. If that’s what their bodies need – let them! Also – canteen is over – ween them off the mega doses of sugar to keep their moods level as they acclimate back into the “real world.”
5. Get outside and exercise
One extremely positive benefit of our time away is the time we spend outdoors and within nature. There’s an enormous list of benefits to spending time in nature: it can lower blood pressure and stress hormone levels, reduce nervous system arousal, enhance immune system function, increase self-esteem, reduce anxiety, and improve mood. And the great news is that we only need 2 hours a week spent in nature, and this can be either as one chunk or spread out – the benefits remain the same according to studies. Therefore, on your return make sure you head outside to experience some natural light, nature, and fresh air. This can be anything from walking and gardening to more active exercise like cycling or running.
*CAMP MOM NOTE: Schedule a family hike, bike ride with Dad, long walk with Mom and the dogs, or back to sports with friends. Just get them out in nature, it’s hard to be depressed when serotonin pumps through you during a nature walk.
How to know when it’s something more serious
While the vacation blues isn’t uncommon, it’s always best to be mindful if your symptoms could be a sign of something more serious. Dr Daniel Glazer notes “If these feelings interfere with functioning such as they impact significantly on sleep, appetite, work, relationships then that would be a time to seek help.”
By UK psychologist Dr. Daniel Glazer Via uktherapyrooms.co.uk