How to return to work and avoid post-holiday blues

Brendan Street Brendan Street Professional Head, Emotional Wellbeing
Ease your way back into work with a little expert help. Professional Head of Emotional Wellbeing at Nuffield Health, Brendan Street, shares his top 5 tips for avoiding the back-to-work blues.
  1. Mood exercises
    It’s normal to experience a low mood after returning to a full inbox after a great week away.

    Try this simple exercise to help put a more helpful outlook on your day-to-day. First, take a negative thought (e.g., ‘I can’t do this... there will be so much work,’) and hold the thought in your mind for several seconds. Notice how this affects you. We often accept thoughts as facts, even though they may not necessarily be true.

    Now, insert this phrase in front of it: “I am having the thought that…’I can’t do this…there will be so much work’ Focus on the thought again, this time with the new phrase. By framing the unhelpful statement as a thought not a fact you gain psychological distance from it and the impact on your mood will be less. 

  2. Ease into your schedule
    Who says you need to immerse yourself in work straight away? Consider re-starting work on a Wednesday rather than a Monday. Planning fun activities in the evenings can help you hold on to that post-holiday glow. If all else fails, why not start planning your next trip? Research shows that looking forward to a holiday can be a powerful mood boost.

  3. Think about the good time
    Relive your holiday joy. Replaying a happy memory has been proven to have a powerful effect on mood. Do you have a special moment on holiday that stands out for you? Recall the moment in your mind, bringing all your senses into play. Use this as a mental screensaver that you can return to any time to boost your mood.

  4. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate
    Double down on your hydration levels to support energy levels, mental clarity and satiety as you ease back into work. A practical first step is to bring a water bottle into work with you. If plain water doesn’t float your boat, try sparkling water flavoured with fresh mint or chopped fruit.

  5. Eat healthy
    To curb sugar cravings, make protein the focus of your main plate of food at lunch.

    Try a fillet of oily fish like salmon or mackerel, a piece of lean meat like chicken or turkey, a couple of boiled eggs, or a ¾ of a cup of beans, lentils, chickpeas or quinoa. Then add a couple of portions of vegetables that grow above the ground. (A portion counts as a large handful or a chopped cup’s worth.) Building a plate of food that’s rich in protein and fibre can help to support afternoon cravings.

Don’t forget, structure and routine have their own benefits. Going back to work will enable you to rediscover your sense of purpose, stretch yourself mentally, make a contribution and feel rewarded. Burying your head in the sand won’t bring the beach back — but savoring your holiday and the perspective it provided can bring positives to your life as it moves on.

You can learn about Emotional Wellbeing here.

Last updated Wednesday 18 September 2019

First published on Wednesday 18 September 2019