Although the Christmas and New Year holidays are behind us, there’s still plenty of summer left. And even though the sun is shining tantalisingly just outside the window, it’s hard to believe it’s already time to sit back at your desk and tackle your overflowing email inbox. Your phone is already ringing, your calendar is already flashing with meeting reminders, and your summer holiday seems like a distant memory… Do you have the ‘back to work blues’?
Why is it so hard to come back to work after the holidays?
Judi Clements, Chief Executive of the Mental Health Foundation, says, ‘While most people do take a longer break over the festive season, they’re often so busy during that time that they don’t get a chance to properly relax, take a breath, and recharge their batteries.
‘Too many of us dive straight back into work instead of gently easing ourselves back into the swing of things. We feel sad that our holiday is over, and don’t take the time to adjust to different sleeping and eating patterns that often change over the holidays. When we do this, we quickly start to feel exhausted, stressed, and depressed.’
How do I know if I have the back to work blues?
Back to work blues can come in many forms. Some people feel disorientated and have a go-slow attitude. Others lose motivation for their work, or feel resentful about having to return. On top of that, many people feel irritable, find themselves in a bad mood, or even suffer headaches or other physical manifestations of stress.
‘One way of alleviating the pressure of back to work blues is to have something to look forward to – like booking in your next holiday’, says Ms Clements. ‘Usually, that will be enough to help you to focus, think positively about the future, and reduce your current feelings of stress about work.’
Some tips to keep you feeling positive and less stressed
The Mental Health Foundation has the following tips to reduce back to work blues:
- Take the first two days slowly – Reply to emails, catch up on phone calls, and then head home for some R&R. Plunging straight back into the thick of things will only increase your stress levels.
- Create a harmonious work environment – Organise your workspace; have something personal that you like, or photos of friends and family on your desk. Set a favourite picture as your screen saver.
- Think about your personal growth – Do you have any skills that you would like to develop further? Why not enrol in a learning course this year? It doesn’t have to be work related!
- Review your job – Is it still fulfilling your needs and does it still challenge you? Ask your manager for a job review. Speak about your wants and needs for the role. Discuss any areas of work you are finding difficult.
- Take time out – Make sure you have at least 15 minutes a day to yourself. Go for a short walk or read a bit of a good book.
- Get organised – Get up earlier so you don’t have to rush; set aside time for processing emails; break large projects into small steps.
- After work activities – It’s summer, so enjoy the light-filled evenings, arrange sporting or social activities with friends and family so you have something to look forward to after work or at weekends.
- Look after yourself – Get more sleep, take part in more physical activity and eat better this year. It will help you to think more clearly and to feel less stressed and more relaxed.
Where to get help if you need it
While it’s not unusual to feel blue when you first get back to work, it’s not usual for this feeling to continue. If you do continue to feel this way for more than two weeks and you constantly feel down and tearful for no apparent reason, please speak to someone you trust or see your GP for help. You can also phone the following numbers for advice:
- Lifeline on 0800 543 354
- Youthline on 0800 376 633
- The depression support line on 0800 111 757
For further information, visit www.depression.org.nz or www.mentalhealth.org.nz
For information and training on how to create and maintain workplaces that support the mental health and wellbeing of employees visit www.workingwell.co.nz
Image / FreeDigitalPhotos.net – Michal Marcol