We spend all year looking forward to the end of it, with many workers planning holidays or at least some quality time with the family over the Christmas period.
So when that well-earned break is over, it can be difficult to get back into the swing of things.
“Given we go on holidays for emotional reasons and fill them full of pleasurable activities, when we return, the response can also be quite emotional,” says EML Risk Management Specialist Christie Solway.
“The return to humdrum life can leaving us in mourning for our holiday life.
“I recall a recent trip with the family to New Zealand. As a stark contrast to the usual hot weather where we live in Australia and the usual pressures of raising a young family, we spent our time in NZ soaking in the culture and doing a variety of fun activities carefully selected for maximum enjoyment.
“But on our return to Australia I missed NZ terribly and was making constant comparisons.
“I was feeling quite down and desperately wanted to return to NZ as soon as possible to fix these post-holiday blues.
“So what did I do? I sought out all the New Zealanders in my life and made sure I had conversations with them about their beautiful home country.
“I also spent plenty of time looking at the photos and videos. The result was an increased level of comfort, integration of those memories into my usual life and an eventual subsiding of the blues.”
Feeling flat after a holiday is over is a very normal thing.
Returning to day to day life after a holiday period packed full of enjoyable activities requires a period of adjustment.
If you’ve crammed a lot in, you may also be feeling exhausted. Plus, any overindulging of food or alcohol will also be taking its toll.
How to beat it
1. Integrate your holiday experience into your day to day life
“If you went to Japan, you may choose to learn Japanese, go to sushi train or teppanyaki, or purchase a sushi mat and seaweed sheets and start making your own sushi,” says Ms Solway.
“Or you may just put up photos of your holiday location around your house or workstation, as wallpaper on your phone, or on your Facebook profile.”
2. Build in some extra fun on your return
“Make some time after your holiday to participate in activities you have either found enjoyable in the past or new activities that you may find enjoyable,” Ms Solway says.
“Do you have a favourite scenic spot to go for a hike, bike ride, swim or boat; do you love painting; do you love getting a massage or having a relaxing bath; do you love fishing; or do you love catching up with friends?
“Or is there a relatively local sightseeing location you’ve never checked out or activity you’ve never done?
“If finances are a bit tight, think of free or low cost enjoyable activities you can participate in on your return.”
3. Find your next thing(s) to look forward to
“The next thing could be something big - are you planning your next holiday or about to buy a new car?
“Or it could be something smaller like a birthday, a concert or a new movie about to come out.”
4. Get some exercise
“Exercise naturally increases endorphin levels and can help reproduce the good feeling you experienced while on holidays,” says Ms Solway.
5. Reframe your perception to make it positive
“Rather than focussing on the negatives, such as having to wait another year for the next big holiday, focus on the positives. For example, feeling invigorated, feeling ready for your next challenge, feeling excited to share your experiences with others.
Once you do get back to work, try to set things up to make the transition as easy as possible.
“Part of the solution is in the planning before you go on leave,” says Ms Solway.
“Make sure people are aware you are on leave and when you’ll return.
“Line up alternate people to handle activities and enquiries to manage the workload in your absence and lessen it on your return.
“Also plan time on your return to get back up to speed with what has happened during your leave and to get through the waiting work.
“Another handy idea is to plan your return week before you go on leave with time for specific tasks blocked out in your calendar. This saves you needing to rack your brain when you return to remember what was on important or on your to do list before your leave started.”
When to worry
Whilst post-holiday blues may have you feeling flat or down for a short period of time, they will not affect your sleep, eating, concentration or interfere with your relationships and will certainly not affect you for long periods.
“If symptoms start to linger or you notice an adverse impact on your sleep, eating, concentration or relationships, it’s time to seek help,” says Ms Solway.
“Your GP is a good place to start or your company’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP) provider, if they have one.”
You can also get more information from these organisations, as well as many others:
SANE Australia www.sane.org
Black Dog Institute www.blackdoginstitute.org.au
Clinical Research Unit for Anxiety and Depression www.crufad.org