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Vacation Depression: How to Cope

Psychologists explain how to avoid vacation depression, plus tips on creating a vacation that matches your personality.

7 Tips to Ease Vacation Depression

Next step: Decide what stresses you the most -- money issues, your boss' attitude, itineraries -- then design your vacation to eliminate those hassles.

  • If your employer frowns on two-week vacations, plan mini-vacations. In fact, many people find that long weekends -- three or four days at a time -- work better than big trips for relieving stress, says Kaslow. 
  • If money is tight, investigate biking, hiking, and camping options. "There are all sorts of ways to be creative and also be financially responsible -- so you don't just add more stress," Kaslow explains. "Kids love stuff like exploring caves or kangaroo parks." 
  • Negotiate with fellow travelers, including the kids. If you prefer a motel and pool over camping, compromise. Make it two nights camping and hiking -- then head for civilization. 
  • If the logistics are a hassle -- choosing hotels, planning an itinerary -- leave it to the professionals. Do a group tour. Take a cruise. Look for package deals. Or, simply explore a great city with mass transit and foot-friendly neighborhoods -- such as New York City, Chicago, or San Francisco. 
  • Check out Meet-Up groups -- either in your own region or at an interesting destination. "These groups bring together people who have that adventurous impulse," Farley says. 
  • Don't overschedule your vacation. A little breathing room -- with a few days to just kick back -- helps keep stress at low levels. 
  • Leave your problems behind, advises Kaslow. "Don't talk about school problems, marital difficulties. Stuff is going to come up, and you will have to deal with it -- but don't bring it with you. Let your kids know they are off the hook on vacations -- there will be no talk about grades [or whatever]."

Prevent Depression After Vacation

If you do it right, you can ward off post-vacation depression, too.

Take mental note of the "stand-out moments" that happen on vacation, advises Farley. "These are the fleeting moments of real joy."

Maybe the kids did something crazy, something funny. Or you found yourself totally immersed -- in a tiny roadside diner, or a museum of rusty nails. Those memories are "precious stuff, like gold in a family vault," Farley tells WebMD. "You can laugh again and again, relive those great moments. Don't let the door close on those memories. … Keep it alive."

Other tips to prevent depression after vacation:

  • Get home early the day before work starts. Take care of bills and laundry. Get a good night's sleep. 
  • Ease yourself into the old routine. Don't plan big meetings for the first day back. (Hopefully you created vacation messages for voice mail and email, so there won't be fires to put out.) 
  • Start planning your next outing. Consider: What did you really like in your vacation? What really worked? What made everyone happy and joyful? Build on the good memories. 
  • Keep a positive outlook on your vacation, Farley advises. "Don't focus on things that went wrong. No 'shoulda, coulda, wouldas' allowed." 
  • Look for positives in your everyday life. "Every day, think about things that you did well, that you enjoyed that day," he says. 
  • If anxiety creeps up, try to understand what's at the root. Try to form a plan to get rid of it. Meditation can help, and should be your first choice before medication. "Take a deep breath from way down low," Farley advises. "Then bring to mind those wonderful moments from your vacation."

If you're on a vacation high, share it, he says. "We are social animals. One of the biggest predictors of divorce is a failure to communicate, a failure to share. If you got it going during your vacation, keep it going afterward."

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Reviewed on June 19, 2008

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