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Feeling the post-holiday blues? Here's how you can make returning to work less painful

By Ana Isabel Alonsagay | 03 March 2020


It’s a typically destructive yet all-too-common phenomena. As the picture-perfect scenes of mountainous hikes and tropical sunsets fade from view, the reality of the working world starts creeping right back – plummeting you from your holiday high.   

Popularly termed as the “post-holiday blues”, such emotions are experienced by plenty; in fact, research shows that one in five Australian travellers frequently experience this daunting comedown. 

It’s a reaction spurred by thrilling, carefree experiences, followed by a return to the strict schedule of responsibilities and day-to-day mundanities. There’s also the misguided sense of such burdens “disappearing” when one leaves for vacation; only to face these unfinished tasks (and a potentially new pile of issues) upon return.

However, not all hope is lost. As common as the post-holiday blues might be, they’re entirely conquerable with some careful planning and a few tweaks in attitude.

Below, SkillsTalk discuss how one can alleviate the dread of returning to work after a holiday – and possibly even look forward to it. 

How does one ease back into work after a holiday?

  1. Snap out of the funk with goal-setting.
  2. Try a change of mindset.
  3. Give yourself padding between your holiday and work.
  4. Plan the next adventure.

1. Snap out of the funk with goal-setting.

To get back into the swing of things, it always helps to set out your goals for the coming days or weeks ahead. 

This can be especially helpful post-Christmas season; when you’re able to look back on the challenges and accomplishments of the previous year, and set your expectations for the new one. Though whether you’re struggling with New Year blues or the aftermath of a mid-year vacation – reminding yourself of why you go to work everyday can help you retain drive and clarity. 

Re-establish your regular work routine, creating a schedule for everyday duties and ongoing tasks towards long-term goals. Acquire a broad idea of what you’ve missed and how things were during your absence; if any major events or changes occurred that may influence your weekly or daily planning. Settling your priorities, identifying your objectives, and strategizing your work schedule around them not only takes your mind off negative post-holiday feelings; but helps you regain a sense of control in the workplace, making your return a lot less overwhelming

It may also help to brainstorm ways of adding variety or spontaneity to your work week – keeping things fresh, dynamic, and exciting. The thought of returning to the same, overdone routine is a prime source of post-holiday gloom; so sprinkling some new, fun activities into your work day (whether it’s subscribing to a new podcast during your morning commutes or getting to know a colleague you barely speak to) can do wonders to alleviate boredom and monotony. 

2. Try a change of mindset.

puzzle pieces concept

As cliché as it sounds, there is power in positive thinking. If all you feed are negative thoughts from the moment you return, you’ll not only prolong the post-holiday blues – but you’ll hamper your productivity, performance, and sociability in the workplace; making the transition a further challenge. 

Rather than wallow in pessimism, try and find the “silver lining” of being back at work. Harness those good vibes and holiday memories to share interesting stories with colleagues; likely encouraging them to share their past vacation tales, too. These conversations strengthen your bonds with co-workers and ease the “pain” of returning to the workplace. (Who knows – you may even be recommended a new activity or place to explore for your next trip.)

Take advantage of your rejuvenated mindset to conjure new, creative solutions to the assignments that await you post-vacation. Sometimes, a temporary break from a task is all you need to regain clarity and acquire a far more effective perspective.  

Ensure you set yourself up for a good, productive day; this could involve a healthy breakfast with your favourite cup of coffee, your favourite Spotify playlist on the way to work, or catching up with your best “work “friend. 

Reframing your way of thinking plays a key role in beating the blues – and crafting a resourceful mindset for success, in general. 

3. Give yourself padding between your holiday and work.

Easing your way back into the world of deadlines and corporate meetings can take time, so it may help to have a day or two to adjust between the end of your vacation and your return to work. 

Use this padding to plan ahead, to set your objectives for the coming weeks (see our first tip!), and to tend to any personal chores or appointments This extra time allows you to cultivate the motivated, “work” mindset you need in advance (and prepare for the week’s events); rather than diving right back in and swamping yourself with e-mails, spreadsheets, and assignments – while still stuck in a vacationer’s state of mind. 

Managing director of Hays Russia, Alex Shteingardt, recommends stocking your freezer with pre-prepared meals along with washing, ironing, and preparing your work outfits before leaving for your holiday. Upon returning to your busy schedule, this not only alleviates the pressures of homecooked food and laundry – but with a few days of recovery between vacation and work, you’re able to enjoy less stress and extra free time. 

These extra days also give you time to re-adjust to your typical bedtime schedule (and stave off the jetlag). 

If you can, meeting up with a friend or treating yourself to a nice meal or activity can also help you re-appreciate the positive aspects of your “everyday life” or place of living. 

Once you do return to work, give yourself time to ease back into tasks; starting with the smaller, older, easy tasks you’re familiar with, before jumping into new assignments. Getting the little hurdles out of the way helps you regain your confidence and momentum, establishing a sense of normality one step at a time. 

4. Plan the next adventure.

planning holiday concept

Finally, a tried-and-true method of combating back-to-work blues is to start planning for the next trip or event to look forward to. In fact, 40% of Australian workers surveyed by Skyscanner admitted to using the thought of their next holiday as a way of battling the negative aftermath. 

This doesn’t have to be another getaway or week-long vacation (though if it’s doable, go for it!); small, yet special activities such as a night out with friends or a ticket to the long-awaited Marvel film should do well to keep your mind occupied and excited for upcoming plans. 

In an article for Traveller, life coach Shannah Kennedy discusses the consequences of placing all expectations and excitement on a single, upcoming holiday. 

“…Most people get the blues because they just live for the holiday,” she states. But the trick lies in incorporating weeks and months’ worth of “inspiring events and projects” into your yearly plans to maintain motivation and a sense of fulfillment. It can help to create a list of things you enjoy, and find ways of scheduling them into your life. 

“You need something, because you can’t just wait for another year for the next holiday,” Kennedy presses.

Occupying your schedule with exciting opportunities, challenges, and worthwhile activities will leave you with less time to mope and dwell in negativity. Additionally, rather than viewing holidays as a “one-and-done” deal – they can instead be used as sources of encouragement and inspiration for the next thrilling experience.  

Don’t let the blues drag you down

The experiences of everyday life can easily pale in comparison to that of a grand getaway – but that doesn’t mean it can’t be exciting, or full of rich opportunities in its own way. 

By keeping your mind focused on your goals post-vacation, and filling your time up with new, upcoming challenges and fulfilling pastimes, you’re sure to minimise those post-holiday blues or do away with them altogether. 

Should negative feelings linger, however, take the time to identify why you dread being back in the workplace, and address them as necessary. Perhaps the issue isn’t the mere act of returning to work – but the work itself. You may feel unchallenged and longing for more dynamic tasks, or you may have grown out of your role entirely.

Be it simply the blues or a far deeper, work-related issue; working on gaining perspective and strategising your post-holiday plans can do wonders to get you back to your productive, motivated self. 
 
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