You’d think that after a blissful break from work, far away from the daily stressors of everyday life, that you’d feel rejuvenated. Maybe you just spent a week at the beach, basking in the sun. Or maybe you were exploring a new city, filling up on the local cuisine and soaking up the culture. So why is it that the second you get home, you feel so damn tired after vacation? There’s a pretty reasonable explanation.
“When you have a routine, there’s less mental energy that has to go towards figuring out what we have to do,” explains Tim Bono, PhD, a psychological and brain sciences lecturer at Washington University in St. Louis. “It’s part of the reason why vacations can be so exhausting. You have to figure out, okay, ‘where do we park the car? Where do we get our coffee? If we want something to eat, where do we go? What are the choices for what we’re going to do today?’ Those are all things you don’t have to really think about in your typical day-to-day life.”
It’s why, Dr. Bono explains, humans thrive on routine. It saves you from making a bunch of small decisions, which in turn saves a heck of a lot of cognitive energy. And of course if you were trying to do all the things on vacation, that can contribute to feeling exhausted post-trip, too.
So how can you make sure you feel truly rejuvenated before returning back to work? If you can swing it, having a buffer day just to chill at home can ease the transition of getting back to reality. You + Netflix + takeout = not much decision making required. Similarly, if you feel burnt out, using a couple days off for a mini staycation might be just the ticket.
Wondering if you’re suffering from burnout? Take this quiz.
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