While most of us like going on vacation, many of us dread going back to work. Visions of hundreds of emails to go through, projects dumped on our desks during our break, and just returning to place you don’t love in the first place, are dancing in our heads. In fact, those visions can keep us from taking time off at all! According to one recent study, more than 50% of Americans leave vacation time on the table. Don’t be one of them!

Here are 8 ways to make returning to work less stressful:

Preparing before you leave, helps the return. Be sure to change your voice mail and set your email to out-of-office auto-response. This lets people know that you’re out and hopefully avoids nasty messages about why you haven’t returned their calls! Make a list of pending projects too so you know what needs to be addressed when you return without thinking about it.

  1. Give yourself a day at home before returning to work. Having a day to go through mail (well, some of us still get mail), unpack, do your laundry, and just get organized will help you feel better when you walk through that work door.
  2. Consider returning to work midweek. Airfare is usually cheaper midweek than during the weekend; even better, this will mean your first week back is a short one!
  3. Minimize commitments on your first day back. If possible, try not to schedule meetings and deadlines for your first day back. This will help you ease back into things.
  4. Commit to spending no more than 30 minutes reviewing your emails on your return. Some things will have taken care of themselves during your absence. Some things don’t matter anymore. Focus on triaging your email box. There’s no rule that says you must read every email in chronological order—you could sort them by sender, topic, etc. And, if you’re willing, consider spending a few minutes eyeballing your email before you walk into the office so you know what you’re facing.
  5. Bring a small souvenir to work or go to lunch at a place that serves food that reminds you of your vacation. This is an easy way to remind yourself of your vacation.
  6. Don’t gloat or brag. While you may still be excited about your vacations and others may ask about it, save your photos and detailed stories for your friends during lunch.
  7. Treat yourself your first week back. Perhaps you can schedule lunch with a friend or go to the gym or go see a movie that’s on your list. If you do something fun, that will help ease that transition. Be sure to leave work on time too.

Nancy Segal is a federal human resources training and job search expert. Following her own 30-year federal HR career (much of it at the senior level), she founded Solutions for the Workplace LLC in 2003 to provide an HR management perspective to both federal managers and astute applicants to U.S. government positions. Nancy has unmatched federal career management insight, high standards, and respect for people’s time, and her clients use this to their advantage.