7 Ways to Beat Post-Vacation Nurse Practitioner Stress

I dread nothing more than returning to work after vacation. More than likely, I've forgotten my password to log in to the hospital's EMR system meaning my first day back kicks off with a call to IT. The days and weeks after holidays are among the highest volume in the emergency department. So, returning from vacation means snapping our of relaxation mode, and fast. Brutal. Then, there's always the fact that the first shift after returning from out-of-town to an empty fridge at home means a mediocre lunch of pretzels (at best) to sustain me through my shift. If you've been enjoying a relaxing holiday weekend, how do you get back to reality and avoid post-vacation nurse practitioner stress?

1. Schedule Travel Intentionally

Yes, the temptation to maximize every last minute of vacation time is real. If you book the flight departing your vacation destination at 6pm, you have an extra half-day at the beach, right? While it's true a late departure might give you time to soak up a few extra rays, it also means arriving home disheveled late night. Furthermore, it's almost guaranteed you will be sleep deprived and unprepared for the next day at work. Schedule travel so you have a few hours to recoup once you get back in town and prepare for the upcoming week. Waking up after vacation to an empty suitcase, clean laundry, and a fridge full of fresh breakfast ingredients helps get your post-vacation week off to a more tolerable start. 

2. Exercise

If you're like me, you feel pretty gross when you arrive home from a trip. Poolside cocktails and tempting desserts are annoyingly sticking to your waistline. Dry plane air has left your skin feeling scaly. And, most of all, the lack of your normal productive routine has left you feeling generally sluggish. So, the morning before you return to work, wake up early enough to take 30 minutes to get moving. Whether you walk, jog, or take a yoga class, starting your day off with stress-combatting endorphins will give you the patience to make it through a long day of seeing patients. 

3. Check Your Inbox Before You Arrive

There's nothing worse than opening your inbox post vacation. Whether you're a nurse practitioner who can expect a list of lab values to review and patient phone calls to return, or an administrator with an excess of emails, log in the evening before you return to work. Knock out the easier items on your list so that your inbox looks easier to tackle when you do return to the clinic, hospital, or office. Deleting, archiving, and responding from the comfort of your couch isn’t that bad, and helps you gently get back into work mode for the morning. 

4. Strategize Your Return 

Returning to work post vacation can be overwhelming, both when it comes to your personal and professional life. So, get organized. Make a ‘To Do’ list, or prioritize things that must be done on your calendar. Sticking to a schedule helps you focus on what’s most important as you return to work, and also helps you track your progress. A carefully crated ‘To Do’ list keeps the week after vacation from feeling as chaotic. 

5. Focus on the Job at Hand

While you may have just returned from a sunny getaway, your patients still deserve your utmost attention. It’s not fair (or safe) to let things fall through the cracks, or cut appointments short just because you’re still in relaxation mode. So, focus on the task at hand. Concentrate on your job responsibilities in the moment. The rest of the home from vacation duties will take care of themselves eventually. 

6. Skip the Extras

Many of us nurse practitioners are chronic over-committers. The days after a vacation, however, aren’t the time for added stress. Avoid volunteering for extras, whether it’s helping out at your child’s school, or bringing cupcakes for a coworker’s birthday party. Keeping things simple makes it easier to get back into your regular routine. 

7. Cut Yourself Some Slack

Chill out. You’ve just arrived home from a restful vacation. Don’t undo all of your de-stressing by placing unreasonable expectations on yourself the week of your return. If you end up eating take-out for a few meals, or your laundry hamper is overflowing, relax. Things will get back to normal eventually. Rather, dwell on the positive experience you had during your time away. 

How to you deal with nurse practitioner post-vacation stress?