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5 Ways to Ease Back into Real Life After a Vacation

01/08/2011 12:12 pm ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Re-entry following a vacation is trying at the best of times. You come back to "normal life" with looming deadlines, piles of unwashed laundry and all those things you really did mean to finish -- but didn't quite get to -- right before you left. (Not to mention that fresh take on life you developed while travelling that you're darn well going to start implementing... now.)

Toss in some jet lag and -- if you're me, about 10 gazillion bags worth of purchases you made at Target -- and it's a recipe for disaster.

Which is why -- having just returned from a two and a half week vacation to the U.S. yesterday -- I decided that this time, I'd really work consciously not to make re-entry the agonizing, adrenaline-fuelled stress-fest that it usually is in my life.

Well, I'm pleased to report that on day five of the Good Lord's Year 2011... something I resolved to do differently in the new year actually worked.

Here are five ways to manage re-entry after a vacation:

  1. Shower First. Pay no attention to that whole soap-dodging trend. It's amazing what a shower can do to wake up the senses. Make sure you do it as soon as you get home, even if you've already taken a shower that day. A shower -- plus a good, strong hot cup of coffee -- are, I am convinced, the foundation for a successful re-entry launch.
  2. Make Piles. I'm a big believer in lowering your expectations. Once you're clean and caffeinated, the single best thing you can do for yourself upon re-entry is not to take on too much that very first day. You'll exhaust yourself. Instead, what I'd recommend is making piles: bills to pay... holiday cards to answer... dry-cleaning that's accrued during your trip. You don't have to actually *do* any of these things. But just putting them in the right piles will contribute enormously to your piece of mind knowing that they will, eventually, get done.
  3. Fill In Your Calendar. Another small but not over-whelming task you can assign to yourself on that very first day back from a trip is to fill in the dates on your calendar (or "diary" as we say over here in the 'hood.) Much like making piles, inputting your daughter's swim class schedule, noting the next few book club meetings and (hopefully) setting aside a few date nights out with your partner can go along way towards making you feel in control of your life, before you actually step in to control it. And the beauty of this task is that it can be executed in a near-somnolent state.
  4. Set In Motion One Big Thing. This may sound contradictory with points (2) and (3) but it doesn't have to be. You know how we all have those giant, endless to-do lists that contain a small array of intractable items that never, ever make it off ground zero? While you're wandering around your house in a bleary-eyed state after a vacation, take action on one of those babies -- the really hard ones. You don't need to resolve it that very first day. But even if it's just about taking one small step to activate action on said item, you'll feel so much better. In my own case, I decided yesterday that even though I'd been avoiding it for... um, like four months... I was going to defrost my refrigerator. Yes it was a pain in the neck. Yes, I had to sacrifice my favorite brand of Ben and Jerry's ice cream to the cause (Imagine Whirled Peace, in case you're wondering.) But the prospect of opening the refrigerator in 2011 and not seeing an iceberg befitting "March Of The Penguins"? Priceless.
  5. Open Your Mail Last. While it can be awfully tempting when you've been away from home for a while to open up all of your mail right away, it's a terrible idea. Mail -- whether it's personal, business or just a doctor's appointment -- is deeply distracting. You get caught up in the photo of someone else's cute kids. You learn that you didn't get that job you applied for. You start reading all about the latest changes to your retirement plan. Do yourself a favor and get the small stuff done first. And then reward yourself by reading your mail last when you can really concentrate. Ditto Email. Trust me.

Happy re-entry.

And Happy 2011.