by Michelle Sutton-Kerchner
Summer’s end is quickly approaching. Here’s how to energize the last days to make the most of it, even if your vacation already has passed …
End-of-summer blues, or glumness after a week at the beach, is so common healthcare professionals assigned a name to it: post-vacation syndrome (PVS). It is characterized by feelings typical of depression, such as difficulty focusing, irritability, sadness, and anxiety. They often last for a few weeks after returning to your typical work routine.
Post-vacation syndrome is more prevalent at the end of summer than after a January Florida vacation or getaway at another time. Along with the possible passing of a yearly trip, September’s approach signifies additional changes. The mental health industry reports an increase in people seeking help as the summer closes. Therapists, marriage counselors, and career coaches find their schedules fullest at this time of year when PVS strikes hardest.
It’s easy to find joy in the approach of warm weather, more sunshine, and the overall casual feel of summer. For many, the months hold a much-anticipated annual vacation to a favorite locale, be it far-flung or their own backyard. We don’t often daydream about blizzards and the inconvenience of being snowed in. When was the last time you stopped in your tracks, iced tea in hand and sunglasses on, to ponder those shorter days? Exactly.
How to Deal
Unlike a case of clinical depression, post-vacation blues are situational by nature. Feeling better can be as easy as treating your situation. A summer schedule, vacation getaways, and hammock time remind us of who we are and what we truly enjoy. Even those who love their career and thrive on a dose of healthy stress cannot deny the appeal of carefree downtime dabbled with favorite activities.
When returning to the everyday routine, be sure to include your favorite pastimes. Saving them for special breaks and vacations is like saving the sports car for a joy ride that may never arrive. Find a way to add a slice of vacation to your daily brown-bagged lunch.
If you spent warm summer nights dancing the night away, join a new Group Fitness class with a dance flare. Recognize your inner fish with regular trips to the Center’s Aquatic department. Learn to swim, or discover how to relax in the hot tub. No time for dining outdoors? Spent all your cash on vacation splurges? Enjoy a latte on your back patio or a hoagie at a nearby park. Realize joy is not off limits, it simply needs to be adapted to fit the everyday.
Upon returning from vacation, as you get those loads of laundry started, spend time with your calendar. See what the weeks ahead hold. Find time in your schedule for priorities remaining on your summer wish list. No regrets. Make reasonable goals happen before the fall frenzy. Adjust as necessary.
Perhaps you never took that pottery course you wanted. Instead, take your tot to a nearby studio and create a mug or plate. Consider it a souvenir of what you did accomplish. Didn’t join a community ball league? Play a pickup game with your neighbors. If you’re still hanging on to those 20 pounds you vowed to sweat off this season, try Small Group Training. It’s never too late. The approach of a new season allows for a fresh start.
Evaluate your priorities. If you found you enjoyed the break from your community squirrel watchers club, it may be time to let this one go. Commit to what makes you happy today. It’s not necessarily the same as it was yesterday. Summer is a time for growth. Observe it in the earth around you, and in yourself.
If fall means longer work hours and kids back to school, start preparations now. Stock up. The retail industry is promoting the season on a slightly lesser scale than Christmas. Shop early and find deals on everything from pencils to single-packaged snacks. Even if you don’t have school-aged children, it’s a great time of year to redecorate a room or office. A lava lamp or some zebra-patterned pillows can liven up any living space. Okay, well, shelves and storage containers are on sale, too.
Sure, the pace quickens post-summer. Stamina is needed to survive the start-up of clubs, meetings, and carpools on top of your typical routine. Get back in action at the Center. Timing is everything. Delay your return after an absence, if only a week-long hiatus, and risk losing momentum. Use whatever it takes, including calorie counting of your culinary indulgences while on vacation. Those martinis add up quickly at around 300 calories.
Prior to leaving for vacation, ask a personal trainer to follow up with you on a certain date. A workout buddy or Group Fitness instructor can honor the same request. Answering to someone, being accountable, is a great motivator. The thought of sharing your excuse, out loud, to another often supplies the twinge of guilt needed to dust off your sneakers. Have a friend meet you at the Center on a date and time planned in advance. Being responsible for another’s workout– and health consequences– can stop procrastination.
It may be time for a new routine. Change up your workout with new moves, equipment, or classes. Create a new song list to enjoy during solo workouts. New music energizes a routine, even if the moves remain the same for now. It also is a great time to shop for new sneakers and workout gear, as back-to-school sales abound. It seems new shoes are synonymous with a new school year. Treat yourself and put a spring in your workout.
The thought of a full post-vacation routine may be overwhelming. Depending on what you accomplished during your vacation, your body may not be ready for your standard two hours of cardio and strength work. If you spent lazy days on the sand with a bag of chips, or wished you had, return slowly. Do half a workout for twice as many days. Once you start, you’ll likely increase beyond where you were. After all, you’re refreshed from summer!
“Avoiding ‘Post-Vacation Syndrome,'” at www.applesforhealth.com.
“The Post-Labor Day Letdown,” by Melinda Beck at www.wsj.com.
Lighthouse (introductory photo): http://www.flickr.com/photos/tonythemisfit/3873151109/