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Back to Work From Vacation Stress

For many Americans, returning to work after a vacation is a stressful experience. It can be so stressful that many people start to feel their anxiety level rise even before the vacation is over. Others lose that vacation glow fast when they are back behind their desks. They face a pile of work that rapidly built up while they were away. For women, it may be especially difficult if they have to go back to work in addition to go back to taking care of the house and the kids.

Dr. Peter Wish, a well-known psychologist and stress management consultant from West Palm Beach, Florida, and a media spokesperson for the American Psychological Association on lifestyle and vacation stress, talks to us about post vacation stress management.

Dr. Peter Wish calls the stress of returning from vacation "re-entry stress", and says it's perfectly normal to feel this way. Sometimes it's because the vacation didn't go the way you'd hoped, and it rained all day or maybe your purse got stolen at the beach. Most of the time it's because the transition from vacation to work is too abrupt. This stress is real and can cause physical reactions like backaches, stomachaches, and sleep problems.

Plan Your Re-Entry

You have to prepare to come back from vacation the same way you prepare to go on vacation. Don't schedule tight airline connections--you don't want to worry about rushing between planes, or missing a plane. Don't get back home at midnight on a Sunday to go back to work on Monday. Get back earlier, maybe Sunday morning. Make sure you're coming home to a clean house--a vacation is a fresh start.

Reduce Work Pile-Up

For some people, it's better to schedule a short period of time each day to check with the office, or work through email. This way they don't have to dread a big pile of work to catch up on when they get back to the office.

Don'T Go Back to the Routine

Plan something fun when you get back. Don't go right back into your usual routine. Maybe go out to a restaurant for dinner instead of cooking. Go out to a movie. Get a massage or a manicure. Have something to look forward to, don't make the transition so abrupt.

"Re-entry" stress can be a negative kind of stress. Sometime it's because of failed expectations, for example, the vacation hadn't gone the way it was expected to, and it rained the entire time, or the vacation hadn't been planned correctly. But it can also be a positive stress because you've come away with good memories, and you're feeling great. You've discharged a lot of work-related anxiety. If you dread coming back from vacation, this should tell you something. You might have to make some changes in your life.

The flip side of this is people with "vacation deficit disorder". They are addicted to their job, and strap their cell phones on to go to the beach. This creates stress on the people around them!

It is normal to have that vacation-is-over-going-back-to-school feeling. Some eople really dread it. Three or four days before vacation is over their anxiety level begin to rise. They might not like something about their work, maybe the commute, or their co-workers. For most people it's an in-between, there are some aspects of their work they like and others that they don't. For women, especially, who have to go back to work AND go back to taking care of the house and kids, this can be really stressful.

For people who have very busy work lives, and who dread coming back to hundreds of emails, they might be better off planning some time during the vacation, maybe once a day, to get rid of it. This can be stress-relief for some people.

And yes, for all of us, that back-from-vacation feeling lingers only for a short while and then it goes away.

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