It is a universally recognized truth that the Sunday Scaries hit hardest on the last day of a fabulous voyage. Even when I’ve had fun and am objectively ready to go home, I dread my domestic obligations: readjusting routines, getting back to work, and answering those damn emails. Fighting to get back to inbox zero after the weekend is a battle, but after a week away, where did I pretend to be beholden only to myself? Forget that.
That said, all good things come to an end and the recurring challenge of back to school is a natural part of any traveller’s life. As a millennial raised in the Church of Optimization, I have to ask: How can I minimize the stress and anxiety I feel when I return from a trip or vacation?
“We don’t necessarily need to hack this unavoidable part of life,” says Liz Graham, a Brooklyn-based therapist with a background in nervous system science and psychology. We talked on Zoom about our culture’s relentless need to “hack and heal” anything that feels slightly uncomfortable in our daily lives. Graham suggests befriending this feeling of anxiety, whether mild or severe, and analyzing its roots. For my part, I remember all the times I felt anxious about returning from vacation and, in hindsight, I realized it was because my work situation disregarded employee time off. There were also instances where I had so much fun on a trip, exploring new passions and interests, that I dreaded going home because I didn’t yet have access to those personal outlets where I live. New York City.
Then there are just shifting discomforts, but it can help anticipate those feelings and be resourceful. “If you give yourself a day to transition, book your flight home on a Saturday,” Graham says. “If it’s making tea and checking your email on Sunday night, set a time limit for doing that and stick to it. Find out and study what works for you, and you can learn how to lessen your “holiday Sunday Scaries” without undertaking the impossible task of eliminating them entirely.
To get an idea of what tactics I could use to manage this post-travel transition to “real life,” I spoke to a group of super travelers — avid vacationers, people who travel for work, and people who do both — and asked them what they were doing to make coming home feel good.
Prioritize rest towards the end of the trip
Another name for the feeling of disgust at the end of the vacation could be “last day lows”, as Katy Nastro, spokesperson for the travel brand Going, like to call them. To give myself a boost, she says, “I structure my trip so that the last day – or the last days – are as relaxing as possible, and I could splurge on a nicer hotel for the very end of the trip to make sure I sleep like a baby before a long flight.” She also treats herself to an upgraded return flight to optimize rest options: “A better seat with more legroom in economy class account !”