You know that feeling you get when you’ve had some much-needed time away, and as that time draws to an end, you start thinking about all the commitments you’re coming back to? You start to think about the work, study, or the school run that’s waiting for you back home…
That feeling which is a combination of, “I can’t be stuffed going back!” with, “As if my holiday is over already?!” and then the realisation once you’re back, “I wish I was back on holidays…
Not everyone experiences this, but it’s common enough I felt compelled to provide some insights on it.
I’m calling this weird and oftentimes unwelcome transition from the holidays back into “everyday life”, the “Post-holiday Comedown”.
This is particularly relevant for a lot of people now as we approach the second half of January, however this experience can often happen after any vacation, holiday, or time off.
Post-holiday comedown might look like this…
You've had some time to relax, reconnect with people, reconnect with yourself, explore, travel, enjoy yourself, and then there's a kind of realisation that all of this is only temporary. You start to come back down from this peaceful, elated feeling, as you start to mentally prepare for going back to your daily life back home, doing whatever it is you usually do.
This realisation or the actual act of getting “back to reality” can be quite jarring for a lot of people. One minute you’re lying on a soft, sandy beach soaking up some sunshine without a worry in the world, then BANG! Before you know it, you're back to work.
Today I want to dismantle this a little bit and ask if maybe, can we do it a little differently? Just hear me out…
Recently, I went to Mallacoota, a lovely coastal community in the northern part of the eastern coast of Victoria, sort of approaching the border between Victoria and New South Wales. It’s somewhere my family has been going for a little while, and particularly my extended family have been going there for many, many years. This year was the first year I went, and I thought it could be a great opportunity to rest, reconnect with myself and family, and be immersed in nature every day.
I'm so glad I went because it was just what I needed. It was really great to be able to reconnect with my family and not just my immediate family either, but with many of my relatives who I haven't really had the time to sit and connect with over a decent duration of time. I was surrounded by nature, with the beach and bush all within walking distance. It was a wholesome, memorable experience.
I know it can be a jarring experience to come back from a trip or come back from sometime when you’ve had the chance to wind down and switch off, and the end of the year is the perfect example of that. You can breathe a sigh of relief that the year is done, you can relax and ease into this feeling of having accomplished all that you have in the past year. It’s almost like a yearly rhythm, winding down after hustling hard before we get straight back to the hustle and bustle in the new year.
I want to challenge this socially accepted rhythm though.
As humans we get used to that predictability, that cyclical rhythmicity, and so that brings us a sense of comfort and familiarity. But the thing is, comfort and familiarity is where things become stagnant.
Progress, growth, insight, and expansion doesn’t come from being in the comfortable or the familiar.
That juicy stuff – the real growth, development, positive change, learning and expanding as a human being happens in those places of discomfort.
So how can we disrupt the norm of hustle hustle hustle for an entire year, followed by exhaustion, fatigue, and often resentment, with a spectacular crash at the end, with a little rest for a bit, before then getting straight back into the hustle?
Is this something that you experience? Is it something that you relate to? Is it something that you see in your friends, your family, your colleagues? I think if you're living in the western world, then you may relate to this kind of timeline.
So I’d like to ask, is this working for you?
Are you happy doing this your entire life until you hit retirement age?
Big (and maybe uncomfortable) questions, but just putting that out there for you to reflect on.
If I ask myself this question honestly, it’s a no from me.
We all make decisions about how we want to work, how we want to live, how we want to study, and so on, and different things work for different people. But I think it might be a common thing for a lot of people, that when that end of the holiday period comes around, they're dreading going back to work, and they may very well be thinking, “Oh, I wish the holidays lasted longer”.
So, how can we make them last longer? Maybe not in the literal sense, but I want to ask you today, how can you take what you've felt, in terms of those pleasant experiences of connection, of joy, of relaxation, of simply enjoying yourself with people around you, good food and drink, doing things you like doing which we tend to do more of in the holidays - How can you bring the energy from that time, doing those things, going to those places, into your regular life and into your rest of your year?
It doesn't have to be that you just slug it out the whole year and then you get to the end and then crash. I see this all too often. This is what happens in the cycle of burnout, and it can happen in different time periods across the lifespan, but also across the year itself as a timeline.
For example, I observe this with teachers and people who work around the school terms, with these cycles of hustling followed by brief “breaks” (I write “breaks” in quotation marks because many people don’t stop working over designated holiday breaks).
It’s a cyclical thing, and you start to see phases of intense activity, followed by abrupt crashes in energy and motivation. So there’s this sort of boom-bust cycle, where you boom when you get this energy to do things, then you overshoot it, so you bust when you either get a chance to have a break, or you're forced to take a break because you’ve worked so hard that your body can’t handle it and forces you to stop.
So, when I came home from Mallacoota, I actually felt something that was really special. I came home and I felt an overwhelming feeling of gratitude walking into my place. It was really nice to come back to it and feel grounded. I felt like I'd had my time to reconnect with myself and recalibrate. This was significant for me, because at the time of writing this, I'm renting the place where I live, and I feel like I tend to complain about this place where I'm staying. For me to have that gratitude, to say I'm really loving having this to come back to was a change of mindset, a change of perspective that I think was always there, but was brought out by the fact that I spent time doing the things that I love, so I appreciated things in my life a lot more.
I find that when people lean into that sense of what feels right for them, rather than what they feel obligated to do, when they make those aligned decisions, they not only start to appreciate the things in their lives more, but they also are generally more fulfilled, calm, and resilient.
It may often be the case that the decisions which truly align with our values and who we are may be in opposition to what's expected of you socially, culturally, professionally, or when relating with others.
If you're making a decision that says, “I need to rest, I need to take a break, so that’s what I’ll do”, when you lean into that and you actually acknowledge that that’s what your body, mind, and spirit needs, then you are able to appreciate things more. You are able to be more grateful for the things that you have, whether that's possessions, the place where you live, the people in your life, the job that you’re in, or anything else.
You might even appreciate your job more when you come back from a break. Or perhaps you appreciate it less. Either way, when you’ve had that time to rest and recalibrate, you are often more likely to lean into that which aligns with you, and so it can be a really good time to reflect on certain aspects of your life, so that you can ask yourself the big questions and work towards making decisions which will help serve you and your purpose.
In Mallacoota, I loved how much I was in nature, and how much I was walking around barefoot, how much sunshine I was soaking up, how many naps I took throughout the day, and how much time I spent in the sand and the surf. These are all things I would love to do more often. So I thought, if I want to do this more often, How can I make it happen?
If it’s helpful, grab a pen and paper and journal your thoughts on this:
What are the things that you enjoy doing that fulfil your sense of purpose? What are the things that “fill your cup”, the things that make you feel renewed, revitalised, energetic, happy, excited, and enthusiastic about life?
For me, the things I truly enjoy which energise and fulfil me are:
Connecting with nature – such as swimming in the ocean, walking on the earth with my bare feet, having access to greenspace, generally spending more time outside in the fresh air, etc.
Connection with Self – this one often comes from being in and connecting with nature
Harnessing my creative potential – there are many ways I like to harness my creative power, but lately cracking out the watercolours is a favourite (see the Kingfisher I painted below)
These are a few broad categories of things which bring me fulfilment, but I would also add in connection to people and purpose. As you can see, my common theme here is connection.
I want to be connected to people who have a purposeful shared vision. I want to be connected to the nature around me. I want to be connected to myself. I want to have healthy relationships between the people in my life, myself, and the environment in which I live.
If you’ve reflected on and written down some answers to the above questions, do you notice any themes or a common thread among your answers?
You can also ask yourself:
What are the feelings I experienced while I was away?
Or if you think of your ideal “dream vacation”, what would that feel like?
Now you’ve explored what ignites you and brings your joy, and how you would like to feel, we can now think about how we might incorporate these things on a daily basis, or at least regularly throughout the course of a year, rather than only when we go on holidays.
How can you do these things more? Where can you incorporate aspects of these things into your daily life?
How can you generate the feelings you felt while you were away?
For me some ways I can achieve those ideal experiences and feelings is through rest, relaxation, reconnection, laughter, and engaging my senses. I can do this in many different ways, for example…
I can reconnect with an old friend by organising regular catchups, where we can laugh about the silly things our cats have been up to, while enjoying a delicious meal together outside while having a picnic.
I can take a nap on the grass at the park on my lunch break, or do a 5-minute breathing exercise or mindfulness practice in between tasks.
I can book in a massage once a month to help release some muscle tension.
There are countless ways I can incorporate the things which “fill my cup” into my daily life. So, how can you bring in more of the good stuff into your regular routine?
How can you channel those feelings into the everyday so that that transition from a holiday or time off into your usual daily life is a bit smoother?
There is no one answer for this, but hopefully this has prompted you to have a think about how you might be able to tweak things a bit in your life so that you can start to reignite some of the joy, energy, and purpose back into every day.