I’m fortunate to have been on a number of wonderful vacations in my life (London, Spain and Austria just within the past year!) I guess that’s one of the perks of being in a long distance relationship, eh? After spending the past week relaxing in Miami, I thought it would be timely to begin writing a collection of posts about healthful vacations, not only to maximize the rejuvenating effects of some downtime but also minimize the stress of transitioning into and out of vacation-mode. I might be starting things a bit backwards but I did just get home from vacation so let’s start with transitioning out of vacation-mode since that’s where my head’s at. Shall we?
healthful vacation series: part I
vacation recovery checklist
I’ll be the first to admit I wish I had a welcoming committee waiting at the door for me when I get home from vacation. I’m sure you know the feeling. You’re tan and well rested from a week of fruity cocktails, no alarm clocks, emails or nagging bosses. You wheel your luggage through the front door, possibly a little bit jet lagged, hungry and grimy from hours of traveling, but a hot shower, a little take out and you’re out cold. The next thing you know your alarm blasts you out of bed, way earlier than your vacation schedule had gotten you accustomed to, and yep, it’s back to reality.
You spend the next couple of days catching up on work, emails, school assignments and sifting through the pile of mail that’s accumulated while you were away. Oh, and then there’s unpacking to do which leaves you with a massive pile of dirty laundry. Awesome. Shall we even mention the the empty refrigerator? There’s not a crumb to be had for breakfast or lunch your first day back, but who has time to eat anyway with all that you have to do?
You might feel like you need a vacation from your vacation. Sometimes, the transition back to reality can be so overwhelming that all the good you’ve done unwinding for the past however many days flies right out the window. Depressing, isn’t it?
I’ve come up with some tips to make the transition out of vacation mode less stressful and more healthful.
Start planning while you’re on vacation, by selecting a couple of new, healthy meals you want to try. Tear out some tasty looking recipes from magazines you read by the pool or on the plane and tuck them away in a safe place. 1-2 days before your vacation ends, take a few relaxing minutes one morning to jot down a quick grocery list to have ready when you get back home. Include all the items you’ll need for those recipes you’ve planned as well as some breakfast, lunch and healthy snack staples such as low-fat milk, yogurt, granola, old-fashioned oats, fresh fruit & veggies, whole grain bread, turkey breast… you get the idea.
When you get home:
Unpacking immediately helps you feel more organized and settled in. It’s the reason you rush to unpack your bags at the hotel the day your vacation starts. Just like it helps get you into the vacation frame of mind, unpacking right when you get home can also speed up your transition back to reality. If you’re not completely exhausted, do it the minute you get home. Start unpacking dirty clothes in front of the washing machine, start a load before you fall into bed and you’ll get a jump on that pile of laundry, too.
Grab that handy grocery list you already wrote and you’ll be in and out in no time. The sooner you fill your fridge with your usual healthful foods, the sooner you’ll get back into your normal eating routine. Your body will thank you. DON’T: Grocery shop when you’re exhausted (i.e. ridiculously jet lagged) or hungry. You’ll be more tempted to over-fill your grocery cart with unhealthy, impulse items.
Whether you cook up a meal ahead of time, pack lunches for the next couple days, or just chop up some fresh fruits and veggies to snack on or use in a dish later in the week, dedicating an hour or two to meal preparation will help you feel less scatterbrained and not desperate to get your hands on whatever you can find when hunger hits. Here, meal prep is all about making the healthier choice the easier choice.
Plan your day around your workout. Everything will get done, I promise. Do you usually meet a friend for a run on Monday evenings or hit the gym before work on Wednesdays? Keep those plans. Immediately reestablishing your workout routine will boost your energy, fight those back-to-reality blues and make you a more productive person. DON’T: Go overboard. Spending crazy amounts of time at the gym trying to work off those extra vacation calories will most likely do more harm than good. You’re probably short on time as it is and most likely make up for that longer workout by skimping on sleep. Being sleep deprived has it’s own unhealthy effects on the body including increased appetite (leading to increased calorie consumption) as well as decreased energy, mental acuity and ability to manage stress.
When you’re tired, even the smallest task or obstacle can feel overwhelming. Am I right? You spent your vacation resting up but it’s important to stay well rested. Getting a good night’s sleep before post-vaca day #1 will make it easier to get out of bed when your alarm goes off and will give you the clear mind and energy you need to start catching up on all those responsibilities.
Vacation recovery doesn’t have to be unbearably painful. All it takes is a little bit of prioritizing!