10 Tips for Beating the Back-to-Work Blues

Jade-Ceres Violet D. Munoz


Photo by Arlington Research on Unsplash

Vacations and holidays are wonderful! Soaking up the sun and letting the beach water lap at your feet, feeling the sand between your toes. Or building a snowman and ice skating. No matter what part of the world you’ve been during your break -- be it in another town, state or country or just chilling in your backyard for a few days, taking a breather from work is important to your well-being.

Like all wonderful things, vacations and holidays must come to an end. It’s now back to reality for most of the world’s workforce. It’s not always easy to re-ignite your passion for work after a long vacation. Whether your holiday was for a few days or for a few weeks, the dread of coming back to work is real.

Vacation hangover, post-vacation blues, call it whatever name you want, but a lot of us actually get in that state after a long break. Dr. Gerhard Strauss-Blasche from the University of Vienna’s Department of Physiology calls it the contrast effect. “Vacationers cease to be used to stress and thus react more strongly when confronted (with it) again,” he says.

Going back to work is unavoidable (for most of us, at least), so I’ve created a list of tips to help you transition back into the work mindset:

1. Give yourself a day to reset - I often schedule my vacation to end a day or two before I actually need to get back to the daily grind. The downtime gives me enough leeway to recondition my brain and my body for the reality of going from a day at the beach to a day in a cubicle. For some, vacations may mean getting jet lag from travel. Taking that extra day off for yourself can help you adjust back to your regular sleep routine.

There’s also the post-vacation aftermath that you need to deal with such as unpacking, doing the laundry, shopping for groceries, or cleaning out the fridge. A day to transition back to reality can help you deal with it better than rushing off to the office as soon as vacation is over.

2. Start your day right - Start with a healthy, filling breakfast -- nothing can get you ready and refreshed for a day at work like a good meal in the morning. Get into the office a bit earlier. Plan out your day and create a to-do list so you can manage your first day back easier. Listing down the items that you need to tackle on your first day back can help you stay on track and accomplish everything you need to for the day.

3. Ease back into things - Don’t be tempted to answer that avalanche of emails you received over your break. Take it one step at a time. Maybe start with old tasks you didn’t finish before going on break. Work on newer assignments at a later date, when you’re all caught up. Don’t overschedule yourself with meetings and deadlines on your first day back so you don’t end up overwhelmed.

4. Prioritize your tasks - There’s a lot to do but you won’t be able to do them all in one go. It’s a good idea to talk to your manager and co-workers to find out how things stand. Have any pending issues been resolved while you were away? When you know the status of things, you can then better prioritize your tasks. Address tasks that are time-sensitive and important first. It’s easy to get sucked into doing work that consumes so much time but does not offer too much value to what you do.

5. Remove distractions - Turn off your phone, close unnecessary tabs in your browser and get off social media for a day. This would allow you to catch up on things efficiently and effectively.

6. Be kind to yourself - Take short breaks when you need to refocus. Don’t skip meals. Tell yourself it’s okay to not catch up on everything on your first day back. Ask for help when you need it.

7. Leave on time - Don’t let guilt force you into believing you have to overwork yourself or put in more hours to make up for your vacation -- that’s a sure recipe for burnout. Put in your hours and make them worth it, then leave the office on time.

8. Connect with people - Spend a few minutes talking to your office mates over lunch. Tell them about your trip and ask about their holiday. Add something fun to your calendar a week after your return -- such as a dinner date with your partner or coffee with friends. Join a yoga class after work. Adding a bit of socialization time in your calendar also breaks the monotony of the workweek and adds variety to your schedule.

9. Enjoy the fond memories - Still feeling blue? Look back at the good times and use it as a stress reliever. According to Psychology Today, studies in neuroscience show that mentally picturing yourself where you felt good “yields a salubrious effect. Imagery, when knowingly used to get yourself in a pleasant mind state can propel you to heights of good feeling and smooth over anxiety.”

10. Plan your next trip - According to a study published by the Applied Research in Quality of Life, planning a trip can lead to an increased feeling of happiness. Starting the research on your next vacation gives you something to look forward to. You may want to start looking at inspiring vacation photos over your lunch break or when you get home from your first day of work.

Coming back to the work environment after a vacation requires recovery. Give yourself the time and the right headspace for it and you’ll soon find yourself back on track. Don’t forget to focus on the positive -- remind yourself of the meaning and purpose of your work,

As a last note, I advise being self-aware of your feelings of dread. Feeling blue after a long break from work is normal, but if the anxiety and depression continue long after and are recurring, you may want to seek professional help.


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I've been a professional writer for over 15 years and write about a variety of topics but prefer to write about things that make the world a better place.


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