Yes, Post-Vacation Burnout Is a Thing

If a holiday is supposed to leave you refreshed and restored, why are you often more tired than when you left?

Emily Underwood
Published in
5 min readAug 19, 2019


Photo by Ricardo Gomez Angel on Unsplash

Have you ever come back from vacation feeling like you badly needed, well, a vacation?

Complaining about how exhausted you are after a week in Cancun isn’t going to win you any sympathy from co-workers, but it isn’t unusual to experience a crash, even after a lovely holiday.

It’s increasingly clear that skipping vacation — as more than half of Americans do — is bad for health and productivity, increasing your risk of both depression and heart attacks. It can also contribute to burnout, a syndrome recently defined by the World Health Organization as exhaustion, negativity, and loss of professional efficacy. Multiple studies suggest that detaching from work on vacation makes us more productive and creative.

But time away isn’t always relaxing — particularly if you spend it flying with kids, appeasing in-laws, or checking email — and reentry can be brutal. An overflowing inbox and multiple fires to put out can leave you feeling more drained and frazzled when you return to your desk than when you left.

With post-vacation burnout, as with most things, prevention is better than cure. Here are some tips to help avoid it.

Choose the right vacation

First of all, be sure you’ve planned a vacation that actually allows for recuperation. Occupational psychologist Sabine Sonnentag at the University of Konstanz in Germany has identified four ingredients that make a vacation restorative, but this is also about personal taste: A week-long mountain-climbing trip might be ideal for some as an escape from work, and simply exhausting for others.

Ideally, schedule your vacation with at least a day’s buffer before you have to go back to work, to give yourself time to settle back in, do laundry, get a good night’s sleep.

Set your out-of-office mindset

At work before you leave, take some time to complete your most unpleasant tasks, so you don’t spend your whole vacation thinking about them.



Emily Underwood
Writer for

Freelance writer and contributing correspondent at Science magazine. Website: