Post-Holiday Anxiety: Back-to-Work Blues
What is post-holiday anxiety? After an amazing holiday season, it is a wrench to return back to work for most people. Indeed, the amazing feeling of not having to set the alarm clock, being in pyjamas all day long and the taste of the scrumptious plum cake may seem like distant memories!
The holidays are over and we have ushered in the new year. Shouldn’t one be feeling inspired and happy to start working again? Maybe not!
Even if we all love our jobs, it’s hard going back to work for most of us. Even more so for people suffering from anxiety. The holiday fun is over. Now, we have to deal with the tiredness, the mundane routine going back to work after taking time off, the sad reality of taking down those cheerful decorations, and we may even get a little stressed thinking about those credit card bills of all those holiday expenses and the gifts we’ve bought and given.
People who suffer from anxiety especially are often concerned about an upcoming threat or the belief that it won’t be possible to cope with the threat.
The thought of going back to reality and work can emerge even while you’re having a good time during the holidays. People might start thinking about the pile of work waiting for them when they return. The anxiety is already creeping in, ruining your last hours of freedom from work. How can you ease post-holiday anxiety and make the transition smoother?
Ways to reduce post-holiday anxiety
- Clean your workspace and declutter: According to the Association for Psychological Science, creating a tidy and more personal workspace can improve your mood. Try adding simple touches such as a treasured photo (perhaps a snap of your recent holiday) or plants which will help uplift your mood. In addition, it has been noticed that natural light can improve the work environment, so instead of sitting near artificial lights, ask to be seated near a window. These are very simple steps which could instantly improve your post-holiday anxiety when you return to work.
- Focus on what you enjoy at work: Whether it is brainstorming with your colleagues, the camaraderie, the thrill of clinching a deal, or the joy of discovery, the appreciation you get – focus on what you love about your work and you will start falling in love with your job once again.
- Prioritise yourself: Be good to yourself when you join back at work. Make sure you don’t tax yourself, remember to take your lunch breaks with colleagues to catch up on their holiday news and leave work at a reasonable time so you can enjoy your time outside of work. Ensure that you get enough sleep & exercise and eat as healthy a diet as possible so you don’t get caught in the stress mode. Engage in activities that help you unwind – these could be reading a book, talking to a friend or going for a massage. It is essential to rejuvenate and refresh yourself. Find things that make you laugh and smile. Don’t make it all work and no play; make time for hobbies and friends. Try to get into the bed on time and maybe read something to help you relax. Things always look bleaker when you are tired.
- Book a meeting with your inbox: You may find it helpful to block some time to tackle your inbox ahead of work, reading through and sorting your emails.
- Prioritize and set goals: Decide on a few things you want to achieve before the week is out. Take time to make a list to help manage the priorities for the days ahead.
- Make the most of supportive colleagues: You may struggle with guilty feelings regarding your colleagues having to cover some of your work or getting involved with unexpected questions from your clients when they’re already busy. Remind yourself that we are all great at supporting each other and how you would always be happy to support them when they take the time off. If someone has been covering for you, it is best to organize a brief meeting to get an update on what’s been going on, so you feel comfortable taking it forward.
- Breathing exercises: Doing breathing exercises can help you in managing your post-vacation anxiety.
- Planning a vacation post-vacation: This may seem silly, but planning your next vacation can actually be a boost. It gives you something to look forward to and may help with the post-vacation anxiety.
- Get enough sleep: We can’t stress this enough. Sleep is important to keep anxiety or stressors at bay. You may have not gotten enough sleep over the holidays due to the high level of activity and merriment. It is important to get your sleep back on track in order to function effectively at work. You may feel it is even more of a challenge to get enough sleep because now the stressors of work have crept in again. Start with baby steps. Try to get to sleep at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every morning. It doesn’t have to be the exact same time each day and night — but the closer the better. Have an “unwinding” activity before bed. Shut off electronic devices at least an hour before bed — they inhibit melatonin release, which makes it more difficult to get to sleep.
- Look into flexible hours: Businesses around the world are becoming more open to flexible work hours. Some companies have decided that as long as you put in forty hours a week, they are okay with you showing up at 11 a.m. and leaving at 7 p.m. Working “off-hours” is a good way to transition back to work, whether you have been out for the holidays or due to health reasons. With fewer people at the office during off-hours, you’ll get more work done. And it always feels good to start off the new year already ahead of the game.
- Examine whether what you fear will happen and ask yourself whether it is an irrational fear.
- Reflect on the good times you had over the holidays. Spending some time to remember the enjoyable things that happened during the holiday season can help you focus more on the blessings you have in your life. Keeping a gratitude journal can also be helpful.
- Professional Help: Getting professional help will enable you to handle post-holiday anxiety, depression and stress properly. You need to talk to someone and share what is going inside your mind without feeling judged. Psychologists can help you in achieving this in a confidential and safe environment. This is a great way of dealing with your anxiety and staying positive.
Symptoms of post-holiday anxiety
Indications of post-holiday blues are varied; however, some of the common ones are:
- Trouble sleeping
- Excessive/irrational worry
- Restlessness and irritability
- Headaches and poor attention or concentration
- A change in appetite or self-medicating with things such as sugary foods or alcohol
- Exaggerated startle reaction
- Feeling jittery
- Tiredness or fatigue
- The feeling of a lump in your throat
- Dry mouth
- A pounding/racing heart.
A person suffering from pre-work anxiety may or may not show all/some of the symptoms of anxiety mentioned. However, the key is to not wait for a physical or mental illness to develop but to seek help before it gets too late. The self-help tips and activities mentioned above may help while you are dealing with anxiety. Take the pressure off yourself and let things happen naturally and in an easier way which could make a difference in how you feel.
Post-holiday anxiety: Is it you or your work?
When you’ve tried to manage your work anxiety, either through the strategies or other treatments, and haven’t found any relief, it could be a sign that you need to change your work, position or even change jobs entirely. Rather than thinking that there’s a problem with you, think about things that are making you unhappy and causing you stress. During the holiday, make sure you establish what is making you feel so low about returning to work. By identifying the bigger problems, it will make it much easier to create a plan of action to solve them. However, if you feel you need some help in dealing with anxiety, depression or stress and want professional help, you could get in touch with us. Most importantly, enjoy the year ahead of you!
Psychologists at the Centre for Emotion Focused Practice
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