Travel Inn Magazine

Back From Vacation and Still Burned Out



A vacation might highlight the stress at work even more. This is how you should handle it.


It seems like yesterday you were eating croissants in a Parisian café or relaxing on the sun-kissed beaches of the Maldives. You are now confronted with hundreds of unread messages. For everyone, going back to work after a holiday may be somewhat unsettling. However, the adjustment is even more difficult for those who are burned out from their occupations, a condition that psychologists define as feeling perpetually tired and pessimistic about work.




While taking a vacation might seem like the obvious method to deal with job overload, taking time off might actually highlight how exhausted you’ve gotten, according to Jeanette M. Bennett, an associate professor at the University of North Carolina in Charlotte who specialises in stress-related health issues.


How to Know If You’re Burned Out

The belief that you have no control over your work is the root cause of burnout. Individuals may detest their occupations, feeling “the quintessential ‘I’m overwhelmed, I’m exhausted, Sunday Scaries'” emotion, according to Dr. Gallagher, an assistant professor at NYU Langone Health and clinical psychologist. People who experience burnout often feel as though they have run out of energy and are unable to function in daily life. Even if people have the time for friends, family, and hobbies outside of work, they may neglect them because they are too exhausted or feel uninterested in them, according to Kent State University psychology professor Angela Neal-Barnett, author of “Soothe Your Nerves: The Black Woman’s Guide to Understanding and Overcoming Anxiety, Panic, and Fear.”


Taking time off might help relieve burnout in some circumstances; people return to work feeling rejuvenated and more equipped to handle their task. However, when people are extremely stressed, vacation is more like a band-aid. They may feel better while they are away, but when it is time to return, they become nervous again. To assess if you’re burned out, Dr. Bennett suggested asking yourself a few questions when you return to work: Did you sleep well throughout your vacation, but now you’re tossing and turning? Does your heart rate increase when you drive to work or check in to Slack? Is there no time in your schedule to be with loved ones or decompress?


How to Ease the Transition Back to Work

One reason burnout can be so pronounced even after a vacation is that people tend to work harder in the days before they’re off, Dr. Gallagher said. It can be overwhelming to go from intense work, to vacation, and then straight back into work. If you’re able, give yourself a buffer day before going back to work, Dr. Gallagher advised. Use that time to rest and reset: Unpack if you traveled, get groceries, and ease into life back home so the transition is less abrupt. It may also help to outline a quick game plan, she said. Think about what you can realistically accomplish the next day, and make a list you can tackle when the workday starts.


Real-World Examples: Nigeria, Qatar, and the United Kingdom

In Nigeria, the vibrant and bustling city of Lagos can make anyone feel drained after returning from a tranquil getaway in Obudu Mountain Resort. The stark contrast between the serene mountains and the busy streets can amplify feelings of burnout. In such cases, taking a day to slowly transition back to the city’s pace can make all the difference.

For those in Qatar, coming back to the high-paced corporate environment of Doha after a peaceful retreat in the desert dunes can be equally challenging. Here, it’s essential to reorient yourself with a quiet day at home, perhaps enjoying some local cuisine and reflecting on your trip before diving back into work.

In the United Kingdom, the switch from a scenic countryside holiday in the Lake District to the demanding hustle of London life can be overwhelming. Utilizing a buffer day to slowly reintegrate into your routine, perhaps by visiting a local park or enjoying a cup of tea at home, can ease the stress of returning to work.


Once You’re Back at Work

Once you’re back at work, pay attention to how stress affects your body, Dr. Bennett said. She advised jotting down notes each day on how you’re feeling and what seems to be causing it. If you notice you always get a headache after talking to a certain co-worker, or if you feel particularly anxious before a recurring meeting, make a plan to calm yourself down. Perhaps you should take a moment to practise breathing techniques before the meeting, or you could leave the room to go for a brief stroll following a discussion.

According to Christina Maslach, a psychology professor at the University of California, Berkeley who specialises in burnout research, your coworkers can also be an invaluable resource. Find out how they handle a demanding supervisor or handle a heavy workload. Together, you may pinpoint what Dr. Maslach refers to as “the pebbles in the shoe”—the recurring annoyances of a job—and come up with solutions. Perhaps you can assign a duty you hate to a coworker who is okay with it; perhaps you can convert a meeting to an email.



Finding a new job may be the best course of action if you’re finding it difficult to keep up with your workload, however Dr. Bennett noted that this is easier said than done. She advised taking a step back and determining whether your workload is reasonable and sustainable in the interim. If not, she suggested, it might be time to discuss what needs to change openly with your management.


Recall, too, that fatigue is not a sign of weakness, according to Dr. Maslach.

“A runner could be doing an incredible marathon race; you could be doing a good job,” she remarked. “However, you must heal before moving on to the next one.”

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