Rediscovering Joy When You’re Depressed After a Vacation

Are you depressed after your holiday? You’re normal! Vacation depression feels terrible but it’s to be expected. Feeling depressed after a trip is a sign of good mental health; after all, you spent weeks planning your vacation, you had a great time away, and now you’re back to the daily grind. If you didn’t feel depressed after a vacation, you’d be an odd duck.

I spent last month traveling in Nepal, Dubai, and Hong Kong. It was a solo journey, a 50th birthday gift to myself, a spiritual pilgrimage into the second half of my life. Toward the end of my trip — the last week or so — I started to suspect I’d be depressed after my vacation. This solo trip was the perfect way to walk into the second half of my life — even though the vacation itself was far from perfect!

It’s not just the perfect vacations that leave us feeling depressed when we get home. My trip to Nepal, Dubai and Hong Kong had its fair share of problems and pains. For instance, Buddha Air wouldn’t let me board the plane at the Kathmandu Airport (and the worst part is that it was my own fault!). I also had to cope with the sadness of seeing starving dogs in Nepal (not my fault, but I accidentally made it worse).

The most important thing to consider, even before reading my tips for rediscovering joy when you’re depressed after a vacation, is your own emotional and mental health. What is your history with depression? I shouldn’t even be using the word “depression” because serious clinical depression is much different than the post-holiday blues. However, coming home after a vacation can be surprisingly difficult for many women. It can even trigger a serious bout of depression. 

3 Ways to Cope With Depression After Your Vacation

These tips are for women struggling with the “I had such a great vacation, I’m so depressed that it’s over” blues. This post-holiday letdown makes you yearn to be back on the beach, touring the street markets, climbing the mountains, sailing the seas. 

If you aren’t sure if you’re depressed or just blue because your vacation is over, read Not Quite Sad or Lonely…What Depression Feels Like.

1. Be open to something new unfolding in your life

Alexander Shaia is an author, theologian, and travel guide who leads groups on the El Camino de Santiago. This trail is a spiritual trek that extends from Portugal to Spain, and can be one of the most transformative, life-changing types of travel. I haven’t walked it yet but it’s in my near future. I just created this Travel in Faith: Tips and Tools for Travel That Transforms You blog, and the Camino is exactly the type of trip I want to take.

Pilgrims spend months or even years preparing to walk the Camino. On the journey, many travelers have experiences, insights and revelations that transform them spiritually and emotionally. But when they go home, they don’t know how to incorporate their transformed selves into their daily life and relationships…and they go back to the way they were. They don’t know how to rediscover the joy they felt on the pilgrimage, and even start feeling depressed after their vacation. It helps some pilgrims to allow something new to unfold in their lives — especially if that something new involves listening to the still small voice of God.

2. Remember to remember

Post-Holiday Depression After a Vacation
Rediscovering Joy When You’re Depressed After a Vacation

Alexander encourages his fellow travelers to  “remember to remember.” Hold on to the insights, experiences and revelations that transformed or even just tickled you. When you feel depressed after a vacation, relive a memory. Remember what it felt like to dig your toes into the sand, slide down the scree on the mountainside, barter for the wooden carving at the outdoor market, taste homemade buffalo momos with spicy sauce.

One of the best ways to remember is to write about your journey. I think that’s one of the reasons I started Travel in Faith; I want to remember all the vacations and trips and journeys I’ve been on. I want to write about my experiences — and I want to hear about yours! If you feel depressed after your vacation, feel free to write about anything you like in the comments below. Even better, start a travel journal for your eyes only.

3. Take a good look at your life. Are you ready for a change?

If you’re coping with depression, maybe you don’t need another vacation. Maybe it’s a sign you need to do something deeper and more meaningful with your life. Something challenging, even transformative! Maybe it’s time for a journey into a new stage of life. Whether or not you go on a physical journey, you can change the way you live today.

Sometimes when I start to feel the post-holiday blues, I refocus my attention on now. I take a deep breath of fresh air and slowly let it out. This moment, this breath and this heartbeat is all I have. My vacation is over and I miss everything about it…but my vacation is over. It is finished, and yearning for the past is a waste of my time and energy. Instead, I focus on making my daily life as deep and rich as possible. I rediscover joy when I take a deep breath and just be here now. 

How do you cope when you feel depressed after a vacation? One of my most practical tips is to journal or write about your journey. What specifically do you miss about your travels? What transformed you – what stands out to you? If you want to be back on holidays, what might you be trying to escape from in your daily life? If you haven’t journaled about your trip, here are the best travel journals.

Here’s another thing that cheers me up: I start planning my next vacation! One of the best parts of traveling is planning the trip! Booking flights, researching hotels, talking about different itineraries and routes, searching for tour groups or guides — it’s almost as exciting as the vacation itself. 

Your thoughts, big and little, are welcome below. If you have any tips or tools for rediscovering joy when you’re depressed after a vacation, please share. We love tips and tools :-)

Travel in faith, my friend, and be transformed.

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2 thoughts on “Rediscovering Joy When You’re Depressed After a Vacation”

  1. Thank you, Laurie, for these unique tips on coping with depression after a vacation. I am a counselor in Vancouver and wanted to add the importance of talking to a professional in case your readers are struggling with serious medical depression. There is a difference between feeling blue, the holiday blues like you said, and experiencing a bout of psychological depression caused by physical or physiological causes.

    Here’s what I recently wrote for my own blog, which I want to share with your readers. It isn’t specifically about vacation depression, but it is helpful for people struggling with depressed feelings.

    Common symptoms of depression include sad mood, loss of interest or pleasure in most or all activities, sleeplessness or too much sleep, change in appetite or weight, psychomotor slowness or agitation, low energy, poor concentration, thoughts of worthlessness or guilt, and recurrent thoughts about death or suicide. Depression isn’t just sadness. It is emptiness, misery, exhaustion. When you are truly depressed you lack the ability or will to cheer yourself up.

    Common tests that are recommended for people with symptoms of depression are: a complete blood count, a chemistry panel, a liver panel test, check vitamin D levels, vitamin B 12 levels, and a thyroid level (TSH) test. A liver panel test is required because depression medications are metabolized through the liver, while a complete blood count is helpful to rule out any signs of anemia.

    Another more common screening test for depression is a questionnaire. Your doctor or counselor will give it to you, to get to know you and your symptoms of depression. This “depression questionnaire” also helps doctors and therapists  determine which hormones may be low and what medication would be most helpful.

    If you’ve suffered repeated head trauma or concussion, you’re vulnerable to an onset of depression. Depression is the most common psychiatric disorder in the general population and the most common mental health condition in patients seen in primary care. Depression can be caused by a combination of genetic, biological, environmental, and psychological factors. About 50 percent of people with depression have a genetic link or have had family members also suffer from depressed feelings. Additionally, women are 70-percent more likely than men to experience depression during their lifetime.

    Different causes of depressed feelings require different methods of treatment. If, for example, you’re depressed because you feel alone in your relationship, then you’ll need to learn different ways to get over depression than someone who is depressed because of seasonal affective disorder or bipolar disorder.

    If you’re depressed because your vacation or holidays are over, you may just need to plan a new trip or travel journey.

    Thank you for letting me share my thoughts on overcoming depression after a vacation! Maybe I’ll run into you in Vancouver sometime. :-)

    Stay healthy,
    Susan

    1. Hi Susan, thank you for your information on depression! Yes, there is definitely a difference between the holiday blues and serious depression after a vacation. It may also depend on how often someone gets depressed after a vacation, and how long the depression lasts for. I guess it’s a person-by-person thing – and it could even change as someone gets older and experiences different stages of life.

      Always grateful for your comments,
      Laurie