It begins with the cold. Boarding the plane in [insert enviably hot destination] you thought the extra sweater over that summer shirt or dress would cut it but within seconds of landing back home, you're shaking from the wintery chill.
Fast forward to the next day at work and after peeking at the mountain of emails, it seems impossible to believe you were stretched out on a beach just 24 hours ago.
This winter, with borders open and major Covid-19 restrictions dropped, thousands of Kiwis took the chance to escape the cold for summer in Europe or America for the first time since the pandemic.
After planning, packing and sitting on a plane for hours, many of us spent sun-drenched days exploring cities, lazing on beaches, dining at restaurants and drinking fancy cocktails. For most, it was the first time in three years they could ditch winter and go on an overseas summer holiday.
Unfortunately, this also means it was the first time since 2019 we had to return home from said escape. An experience often resulting in a classic case of "post-holiday blues".
What are 'post-holiday blues'?
Also known as post-holiday syndrome or post-vacation depression, the phenomenon describes the sharp drop in mood you feel after coming back to normal life after a vacation.
Aside from the obvious reason we can feel down (not getting to spend entire days lying on a beach) one of the main causes for a dip in mood comes down to a drop in stimulation.
Travel, even to places we have been before, is often a time rich in new and spontaneous experiences, which makes the days feel full and exciting (as well as a little exhausting). So, when we return to the predictable rhythms of normal life, it can seem a little, well, dull.
Combine this drop in stimulation with a literal drop in temperature as we go from long, warm days to short, dark ones, and you have the recipe for a very blue mood.
The exact symptoms differ from person to person according to psychotherapist and licensed clinical social worker Gina Moffa, however, sadness and anxiety tend to be the most common.
Sleep patterns, energy levels and even concentration can also take a hit, she told Psychcentral, as we readjust back to the regular schedules and routines.
Moffa added that post-holiday blues can even hit while you're still on holiday if you start anticipating a stressful and demanding return to normal responsibilities.
How to beat the post-holiday blues
There may be no pill or jab for this particular kind of travel sickness but there are ways to ease the symptoms.
Host a slideshow night for friends and family
I can't remember when the tradition started but for years now, after a family member returns from an overseas trip, we host a slideshow night.
The recent traveller projects their travel photos onto a screen and shares the stories and memories they collected during their time, from near-disasters that now seem comical, to interesting things they learned, did or saw.
As a tactic to get over missing a holiday, reminiscing seems counterintuitive. However, recounting your trip is a powerful way to relive the experience, and more importantly, the positive feelings they inspired. Even a trip across the ditch can arm one with a handful of anecdotes that may never make it to Instagram but are a joy to share with friends and family.
Post it on social media
Much in the same way as sharing 'IRL', scrolling back through our photos and posting a holiday picture days (or weeks) after a trip can stir up positive feelings. The key to this practice is focusing on cultivating gratitude for the experience, rather than nostalgia or sadness about the fact that it is over.
Do something new
As mentioned, part of a drop in mood upon coming home is caused by a slight withdrawal from stimulation. So, doing something new, spontaneous or exciting is an excellent way to escape the slump.
This could be something often done on vacations like an art gallery or museum visit, weekend hike or luxury hotel stay. Or, you could pursue the foreign and step outside of your comfort zone with an art or cooking class, salsa night or alternative theatre performance.
Plan your next adventure
Fortunately for those who have just used up their annual leave and travel savings on a holiday, there is an easy way to chase off those post-holiday blues without having to go anywhere; plan a trip.
According to studies, people are far more likely to report feeling happier and more content when they have a trip on the horizon to look forward to.
Plus, according to bestselling author of The Future of Happiness and member of the UN Global Happiness Council, Amy Blankson, MBA, the process of planning the perfect itinerary can be a great distraction.
"While planning is certainly a different kind of happiness than physically going on a vacation, the process of finding the perfect route, accommodations and activities can be a temporary distraction," she said.
So, if you're feeling blue about being back at home, it may be time to cook up an epic summer trip with your friends and family.