Friday, March 1, 2024

Struggling With The ‘Post-Holiday Blues?’ Here’s What Might Help

How might you deal with that down-in-the-dumps feeling that can hit when the holidays are over? How a “fun times wall chart” might be the secret weapon to battling the post-holiday blues

Who is back at their desk this week? Who will be back at their desk next week? Who feels less than enthusiastic about that? Definitely the two women that I overheard talking on Monday about the post-holiday blues.

“It’s a shock to the system to go back to work after the break, especially on a beautiful summer’s day like this,” one said. Her friend nodded and said, “I feel a bit bummed about that too”.

Same. I got back from a lovely two-week holiday on Sunday, and was back at work on Monday – and, though I obv love my job, I felt kind of blue. Kind of lazy, kind of hazy, hankering after days reading books in the sun and playing backyard cricket.

‘Between Covid, climate change, and genocide, I don’t know how we’re supposed to function and keep participating in ‘business as usual’.’

It’s totally normal to experience the post-holiday blues after the summer break, even if you enjoy the job you’re returning to. Because despite the stressors often involved with Christmas etc, the holidays hopefully give us a break from the monotony of everyday life and bring moments of joy and fun.

However, maybe after the whirl of activity surrounding Christmas, you’d only started to feel properly relaxed in those first few days of January, only to have to jump back into work like you might a freezing plunge pool.

Some people take more weeks off. “Post-holiday blues don’t hit as hard in February,” someone tells me. But obviously not many of us have that luxury.

How Is The Vibe Out There? Not Great.

Jessica from Wellington says: “I started back today. I walked to work in the glorious sunshine and got a wave of sadness that we wait all year for the Christmas break and it’s already over, and it’ll be a whole year before we get that light feeling of walking out of the office again. Usually if you take a week off you go back to a week of emails. When you [and your colleagues] are all on a break, you return to the same inbox you left. It’s… fine, I guess. I’m just having a moment. I hate feeling like we spend 96% of our lives waiting for the 4% where we get to live how we want to.”

‘I hate feeling like we spend 96% of our lives waiting for the 4% where we get to live how we want to.’

Ruth from Christchurch says: “I’m back at my desk in my home office today, and my 14-year-old doesn’t go back to school until February 8th. I’ve been DREADING going back to work. My crappy compromise has been to put something in my email signature noting that I’m doing reduced hours over the school hols and to please be patient if it takes a few days for me to respond. Even though I’m so immensely privileged to have a WFH [work-from-home] job that allows me some flexibility, I’m really feeling stuck and like there has to be more to life than this. My little writing business feels pointless. Between Covid, climate change, and genocide, I don’t know how we’re supposed to function and keep participating in ‘business as usual’. My body clearly agrees, because I hadn’t had a migraine since before Christmas, despite eating and drinking all kinds of things that usually trigger them for me – and this morning, my first day back, I woke up with one before I’d even sat down at my desk.”

Michelle from Auckland says: “I was meant to start back at work on the 8th but decided to take two more days off. I’d been anxious for a few days about going back to work. I love my job, but it’s intense and the juggle is always just so hard. My partner worked throughout my two-week break, apart from statutory [holiday] days, so I had to entertain and sort the kids on my own. It was so lovely to spend time with them, but it was also not really restful. I’m so glad I decided to take two more days off, for myself. It was so nice to be alone, be quiet and do things at my own pace. I think I might do this every year.”

Airini Beautrais from Whanganui doesn’t have post-holiday blues. “I had such a good day back at work yesterday! Lots of hugs, and one workmate gave everyone a happy new year crystal. Last year was a hard year in our organisation and it’s so good that people responded by being really nice to each other. Also, I don’t do Christmas, so no stress about that. And I’ll be taking some more time off due to school holidays.”

How To Ease The Post-Holiday Blues

Could you ease yourself back into work if at all possible? Maybe you could focus on the least taxing tasks that first week back.

Perhaps New Year’s resolutions shouldn’t be implemented until you’ve got over the post-holiday blues? It’s a shock to the system to go from Christmas cake and champagne to the gym and salads at the same time as you’re swapping time in the sun for time in the office.

How can you recreate that holiday feeling? Perhaps plan a long weekend away and look at it as an extension of the holidays.

Plan things to look forward to, whether that’s a spa visit, a night out, or just a day where you get to do nothing. When you feel blah, think about whatever that thing is.

Sometimes, after spending quality time with others over the break, you might feel a bit lonely when you get back, so keep connecting to people important to you – preferably not just over text message. It might be a good time for a BBQ or boardgame night.

Dr Lucy Hone, co-director of the New Zealand Institute of Wellbeing and Resilience, suggests that, instead of New Year’s resolutions (which usually fail), you get yourself a “fun/good times wall chart!” It’s the fourth year she’s done this and she calls it her “secret weapon when it comes to setting me up well for the year ahead”.

Here’s the process she suggests:

Step 1: Buy your wall chart. If you use one for work, you’re going to need to buy two, as there’s no place for work-related stuff on this baby.

Step 2: Go ahead and put in any good stuff that’s already on the horizon – we’re going to see our sons DJ together at the end of Jan, I’m off to Hong Kong in a couple of weeks, we’re hiking in remote Fiordland in March, we have great plans for Easter, and a festival to look forward to… all those things go on the wall chart.

Step 3: Now consider birthdays, anniversaries, your friends/family, public holidays etc that you’re likely to do something good around and mark those on [the calendar] too.

Step 4: Look for the holes: where are the great glaring, gaping gaps? What could you do to fill those with something to look forward to?

Obviously, you’re not going to have everything filled out this early in the year, but Lucy suggests making a start, and putting the ‘fun times’ calendar somewhere prominent.

I’ll start writing in mine right after this!

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