You may already be back at work, but this is the time of year when thousands of Kiwis are thinking about heading back to work after their summer holidays. As the working year begins and thoughts of those sun, sand and family holidays recede it is easy to suffer the back to work blues. We all know the feelings it brings, low energy, increased anxiety, lack of focus, and overall a lack of motivation for work.
If these symptoms sound familiar, you’re not alone. As clinical psychologist Dr Dougal Sutherland, of Victoria University of Wellington, says the feeling of dread often felt in the last few days of the holiday is normal.
"Lots of people talk about it and I have personally experienced it," he said. "It's that natural return-to-work drop in mood."
Shaun Robinson of the Mental Health Foundation states “whilst holidays are a great and necessary chance to relax, unwind and reset, It’s natural to feel a bit low when they’re over and we’re back to business as usual, but the back to work blues are avoidable.”
So, what can we do?
Well, the Mental Health Foundation New Zealand has come up with five great tips to help you get back into the swing of things at work:
- Think about what you have to look forward to, and, if possible, plan your next holiday. It’s easier to turn your focus back to work if you know when your next break will be and remember there are plenty of public holiday over the next few months.
- Commit to incorporating the Five Ways to Wellbeing into your day - Give, Connect, Take Notice, Keep Learning and Be Active.
- Block out at least 15 minutes a day just for you to do something you enjoy - read a book, go for a walk, paint, listen to music - you do you!
- Take advantage of the longer light in the evenings and plan fun activities with friends and family - picnics, mini-golf, movies in parks, surfing, rock climbing, go for a bike ride etc. Go out and live your best life!
- Get organised – you’ll feel less stressed if you take some time to plan your day and week ahead, this is a bit of a boring but useful tip and can help banish that frazzled Monday morning feeling!
In addition to the Mental Health Foundation’s list, here are a few other tips to think about.
In the first few weeks, keep your expectations realistic. Don't expect too much of yourself on your first few days back. Set small, achievable goals so that you feel a sense of accomplishment. You may not believe it now, but this will pave the way towards you feeling more motivated to tackle the bigger tasks soon.
Next forget the holiday. We can make ourselves feel worse by focusing too much on the fact our holiday has come to an end. Professor of psychiatry and behavioural neurosciences at Loyola University in Illinois Dr Angelos Halaris suggests: "Resist feeling sorry for yourself…know that something you enjoyed has come to an end but make peace with it”.
At the same time, you can take advantage of the break you've had in your routine to create new and healthier work habits this year. One of the best workplace habits you can create for yourself is to block off time each day where your phone and e-mail are turned off and people know to not disturb you. Spend this time away from all technology, and just work with your thoughts and ideas.
Finally, the best thing about being on holiday is we have more time to spend doing the things we love. Why put those things on hold just because we're back at work? We are all time-poor but filling every day with small pleasures is important to our health and wellness. Whether it's yoga sessions or evening swims or drinking coffee in the sun or catching up with old friends - find a way to keep these rituals in your life, they're not just reserved for times of annual leave.
It might be back to work time but the summer months are still with us so take advantage of the warmth and long hours of daylight to go for fish and chips at the beach after work, enjoy an early evening stroll through the park or go to one of the many events on this month to keep you in the summer groove.
Also, let’s not forget that Northland, Auckland, Nelson and Wellington all have Anniversary days in the next three weeks, followed closely by Waitangi Day on February 6. So, try and keep the holiday feeling going and if that means getting away again then remember our new travel Insurance offer that’s available to you, all your family and friends including those who are not HealthCarePlus members.
Hopefully some of this resonates with you and will help you quickly pull through those post-holiday blues.