We all know that feeling of landing when we get back from vacation. One day we’re relaxed, in some faraway location, with not a care in the world. The next, we’re back home and all our worries and obligations hit us full in the face. The contrast between the two can create a lot of suffering. What’s happened?
When we’re away on holiday, we don’t have all those triggers that remind us of our worries and obligations. We’re not seeing the bathroom that needs to be cleaned, the workplace that causes us relationship conflicts, the schedule that means we neglect our moment-to-moment emotional needs. Instead, we have a wide open, expansive day; our senses are delighted through beautiful views, delicious food and fun activities; and we (usually) get to hang out with people we aren’t in conflict with. We get to relax, and in that process, we open emotionally. We let down our guard and we allow experiences in without feeling the need to protect ourselves. We release out one big out breath.
There is nothing wrong with being protected from the pain of our everyday existence. We all need to protect ourselves.
Then we get home, all open and out-breathy and relaxed. We have ceased to protect ourselves against those old worries, but that doesn’t mean they’re not there. And when they come back, we are unguarded, and that’s part of what causes the smack in the face that is the reality of our non-vacation life. The life that didn’t seen so bad when we left it is jarringly, by contrast, painful and upsetting on our return.
This is a pretty common phenomenon. There is nothing wrong with being protected from the pain of our everyday existence. We all need to protect ourselves to some degree. We protect ourselves by self-censoring the news we allow into our system, by fortifying ourselves with coffee before we face the day, by preparing our boundaries as we contemplate moving into a meeting. We all need to protect ourselves. It’s the forgetting about the need to protect ourselves that causes so much suffering when we get home from vacation.
Validate your suffering on return. It is real, and it is worthy of kindness, just as you are worthy of kindness.
So, what can we do? A bunch of things. Here are some suggestions:
- When you are on vacation and you find yourself projecting into a future where you own one of those bungalows on the beach and life becomes one long relaxed outbreath, it doesn’t hurt to bring in a little reality check. As human beings, we adapt pretty quickly to new situations. Before long we’d have our laptop on the beach, cursing at the mosquitoes and the tourists. We don’t leave our personality behind for long, when we move to a different location. Remind yourself of this! Vacation bliss is temporary.
- Take stock of the things that you’re worried about before you leave, and remind yourself of those things as you are transitioning back to your home life. This is not to impose a sense of doom and gloom on your being. Do this in a mindful way: acknowledge the list of things that you are successfully dealing with before you go on vacation, and acknowledge that they will be there again, and you can successfully deal with them again, on your return. Also be open to the idea that your vacation may help you view your stressors from a different perspective; it may give you extra information to help you manage these stressors.
- Intentionally take with you objects from your home life that will be with you on vacation and then will travel back home again on your return. You might even purchase something new at home that will become your special transitional object. Consciously bring your awareness to how these objects remain constant even while your environment and emotions change. They can help you to anchor in something that doesn’t change even while your experience changes. When you return, they can also help you touch into the sense of freedom you felt while you were on vacation. Purchasing objects while you’re away and bringing them back from vacation with you also has this effect. Be mindful and intentional about this, even creating a little ritual for yourself. You might include gratitude that you have these objects and an intention to carry the vacation energy they absorb, wherever you travel with them.
- Intentionally transfer experiences from your vacation to your homelife, to help bridge. If you spent time being nourished by the sensation of sunshine on your skin while on vacation, seek out opportunities to do this at home. If you had space in the mornings to simply sit in contemplation with your cup of coffee or tea while on vacation, see if you can carve out this time for yourself when you get home. If you were nurtured by being in nature, seek our opportunities to immerse yourself in nature again. What you did on vacation can tell you a lot about your core values and about the things that you need to feel grounded and cared for. Intentionally use this information to your advantage.
- Validate your suffering on return. It is real, and it is worthy of kindness, just as you are worthy of kindness. There is nothing wrong with feeling loss and longing when returning from vacation. Tend to yourself as you would tend to a dear friend who is suffering loss and longing. There is grief in losing the sense of freedom and easefulness that we feel on vacation. Validate this.
As I mentioned earlier, we might receive information in the process of seeing the contrast between vacation and home life, that we can use to make good decisions to help us align with our core values. If your job seems unbearable on return from vacation, maybe there’s a strong message that it’s not the right job for you. If your habit to go straight to your computer first thing in the morning to anxiously check for potential stressors feels jarring, let that anxious part of you know that you will tend to your emails, but that you need to sit in the sun in contemplation for a while first. If any of your relationships seem unaligned with what you know to be nourishing for you, acknowledge this. Listen to all of these messages, give them some time to sink in, and if in a few weeks you feel as if you need to make a significant lifestyle change, start thinking about making that change. We don’t want to act on impulse, but we do want to make considered changes in our lives that feed our soul’s purpose.
If you’d like to explore what practice based on feeding your soul’s purpose might look like, I’d love to talk with you about that. You can sign up for a free online chat with me here. We might even travel together for a while as part of my Radical Emergent Self-Wisdom Mentoring program. You have the wisdom inside of you about how your life can be and what aligns you with your purpose: maybe you just need a little support in establishing practices to help you on that journey.
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