Karen Cogan

How do you reduce stress once the vacation’s over?

Karen Cogan, assistant professor of psychology (Photo by Mike Woodruff)Coming back to the hustle and bustle of a busy life can seem daunting after a relaxing summer vacation. But long days and a demanding schedule don’t have to be stressful, says Karen Cogan, assistant professor of psychology.

“A lot of people don’t want to come back from their vacation because of the hecticness of their lives, but if you can have a little time to transition, that can be helpful,” says Cogan, a sports psychologist who traveled to the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing to counsel the U.S. taekwondo team and attended previous Olympics with the moguls ski team.

Cogan draws on her professional experience and research to offer valuable tips on minimizing stress while easing back into a hectic routine:


  • Take an extra day after the vacation to organize things at home.
  • Have realistic expectations about the productivity level of the first few days back.  
  • Set a specific timeframe for completing tasks that have accumulated while you were gone before diving into the usual schedule.

Soothing exercises

  • Step away from work, close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. While this is not a cure-all remedy for eliminating stress, it will help ease tension carried in the muscles, Cogan says.
  • Tailor stress-relieving activities to your lifestyle and practice them regularly.
  • Go easy on yourself and take one task at a time.


  • Take time to manage family life and work life, and safeguard scheduled personal time.
  • Negotiate time for family members to share responsibilities so no one person does all the work.

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