Beating the post-holiday blues
Your holiday is over, it’s back to reality and business as usual.
Unfortunately, though, you are quite likely to experience a bout of the so-called ‘post-holiday blues’ on your return to the office.
‘Working as hard as we do takes a real toll emotionally, mentally and physically, so when we finally get that much-deserved break from the incessant everyday of working life, it can be a shock to the system to have to gear ourselves back up again,’ says Jo Howell, specialist accountancy recruiter at Cathedral Appointments.
This sharp transition can have a big impact on your psychological and biological wellbeing: you may feel bored, anxious, overwhelmed, tired and, in some cases, even depressed.
Howell says: ‘When combined, these feelings can lead to a “fight or flight” response.’ You may decide it’s time to ditch your job for another or slump further into the state of inertia where you can rid yourself of all responsibility again.
What causes this funk?
Business psychologist Jan P de Jonge says the adrenaline comedown is to blame.
‘After the sheer adrenaline of it all – the holiday surroundings, new experiences, free time, no obligations – getting back to the daily grind of work and study seems such a let-down.’ Your brain is struggling to adjust between these two markedly different experiences.
Fortunately, just knowing why you feel the way you feel makes it easier to escape post-holiday blues.
‘Also, humans are hard-wired to adapt and re-adjust quite quickly,’ adds de Jonge. ‘Our brain knows that refocusing on study and work helps us avoid reminiscing about that fantastic holiday in the sun and soon we are able to give our full attention to the daily routine of chores and tasks.’
How to snap out of it
There are a few things you can do to make returning to work easier.
‘First of all, make a conscious effort to think about and plan your return before your break, by scheduling some after-holiday tasks in advance,’ says de Jonge.
Coming back to a heavy workload? ‘Don’t try and cram everything into the first few days – Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was a painless return to work after a holiday,’ says Howell.
If you can, tackle small and easy tasks first.
‘Otherwise, break your workload into three categories – Has to be done immediately, Would be great to get done, but can wait a bit and Not that urgent, and work from that basis,’ Howell recommends. ‘Do this and you’ll probably discover that your workload isn’t as heavy as you first thought and that you have a little more breathing space to get through the first week.’
Re-establish your boundaries too, especially if you work remotely – schedule specific start and end times for work, breaks, meals and self-care.
Be kind to yourself
The return to the faster pace of life and all the responsibilities can cancel out the very benefits of the holiday you’ve just taken unless you put some extra emphasis on your physical and mental wellbeing.
Quality sleep and a nutritious diet are essential for getting back on track if you’re struggling to re-adjust.
‘The importance of getting enough sleep cannot be underestimated: an extra hour in bed will make you feel so much better than watching “just one more episode” on TV,’ says Lisa Kramer, business psychologist at Kooth.
‘Finding gentle ways to get your body moving, such as holding stretches for 15 seconds or getting outside for a walk in nature, will also help you reduce post-holiday anxiety, as will meditation, breathing exercises and any activity that makes you feel good and gives you a sense of fun.’
It’s easy to withdraw from other people when you’re feeling down.
But reaching out to – and getting together with – friends can boost your mood and ‘create a softer landing’, says de Jonge.
‘Send those post-holiday blues packing by sharing your holiday experiences with a friend over a meal in your favourite restaurant – you will feel less on your own with your blues after your holiday comes to an end. Post-holiday blues shared is blues halved!’
Make time for catching up with your work colleagues too.
Howell says: ‘Not only will it help you re-establish those important professional connections, it will also make your brain remember what it’s like to be in “work mode”. Centring your return on coming back together with your team makes re-adjustment much smoother.’
Resuming your studies
‘If you need a few more days to recalibrate your brain to get into study mode, then allow yourself that time,’ says Howell. ‘Don’t just throw yourself into it full throttle or you may start to loathe the process – studying should be enjoyable and it should feel rewarding, not cumbersome.’
The right mindset is key.
De Jonge says: ‘See the holiday as a time out that sets you up to raise the bar, a kickstart to pick things up a notch when you get back to your study books. You are now ready for a higher level of commitment, thanks to the physical and mental recharge gained on that holiday.’
Author: Iwona Tokc-Wilde, journalist
This article was first published in Student Accountant in September 2021