The post-holiday slump: how to get back into the office groove
Article5min22 January 2019
Parties, presents, friends and family, travel, shopping and feasting - the festive season packs maximum indulgence. But when the tinsel is back in the box, the last leftovers are eaten and the alarm clock’s set for that first day back at work, reality can bite hard.
Post-holiday blues and a heavy comedown are very real in the New Year, says leadership performance coach Muffy Churches.
“We feel that juxtaposition of the freedom we experienced on holiday, that sense of how great life could be, versus our return to perceived incarceration,” she says.
“It’s very common, and the longer you’re away, the harder it can feel to return.”
Adds mindset coach Renae Cobley: “Seasonal anxiety does exist. But remember: life is like a garden that can’t be beautiful all year round. You have to accept that not all times will feel great.”
It’s about your perspective
Attitude is everything, so before you return to work, load yourself up with positivity, advises Muffy Churches.
“It’s all about your perspective, not about the outside world. We can make the decision to change how we are perceiving this back-to-work situation.”
Adds Renae Cobley: “It’s about starting to program optimism. Every victory starts with the state of your mind. Believing in the possibility that it's going to be a great year, that in itself will transfer to everything else.”
"Believing in the possibility that it's going to be a great year, that in itself will transfer to everything else."
Ditch the misery filter
Viewing work through a gloomy lens can be a self-fulfilling prophecy, warns Muffy Churches.
“If we walk back into the office with a sense of dread, we see everything through this misery filter. We can drag everyone else down with us.”
Renae Cobley agrees: “Negative psychological beliefs affect your physiology. If you approach work feeling miserable, you might have poor sleep, cramps, a sluggish feeling.
“It’s all entirely up to you. If you tell yourself 2019 will be just the same as 2018, that's exactly what you’ll get.”
The good news is there are steps you can take to help turn a negative outlook into a positive one. Muffy Churches recommends practicing gratitude for everything you enjoy about your work.
“If someone waved a wand and said: ‘your job just disappeared,’” she says, “what are the things you would really miss? List them out. You might be surprised.”
These positives could include everything from financial security to , friendships with colleagues, self-validation, or details such as your physical workspace and employee benefits.
She adds: “Of course, there are people who really do love their work and can’t wait to get back; they feel professionally validated, they have a purpose, they’re energised by it, they gain a sense of achievement.”
Change it up
Next, says Churches, reflect on what wasn’t working for you last year.
“What does your work life balance look like?” she says. “Do you need to fix some time management issues?”
Whatever change is required, start planning and strategising, she says.
“For some people, it’s as simple as creating a new schedule or putting in place timesaving techniques to allow more family time.”
These new processes can provide the sense of liberation that made holiday time so enjoyable.
“Lists and rules might seem pedantic,” says Churches, but they really can create a feeling of freedom.”
However, understanding what’s not working can also lead to longer-term work or life changes, and pervasive back-to-work blues could be hinting at a deeper dissatisfaction.
“It might be that you’ve not had the courage to face that your role is no longer right for you or you’re in the wrong career or industry,” says Churches.
The power of possibility
Having something to look forward to can recapture that heady, holiday feeling of possibility.
“We want to have a view of something new and better in the future, whether it’s over the next weeks or further out across the year and beyond,” says Muffy Churches.
“When we are striving for something and excited, this stimulates the production of the ‘anticipation hormone,’ dopamine – one of four chemicals that make up the ‘happiness cocktail.’”
She recommends setting some goals and moving towards that exciting idea. Even have a Plan B running in parallel while being the best you can be in your current role.
Direct your day
A morning ritual to visualise your day ahead is a powerful tool for success, and your first day back to work is a great place to start.
“You can do this before you’re even out of bed,” says Churches.
“Set up your day the way you want to see it run, in terms of outcomes and practical things, and also from an emotional point of view.
“Think: who will I see, what meetings do I have, what’s my vision for how I want it to look and feel? Pre-program it as if you’re the director of your own movie.
“And the weird thing is that when we preview it in our heads, somehow it tends to start to play out the way we want it to.”
Permission to enjoy
If you’re worried that embracing complete relaxation on holiday will only make the comedown harder afterwards, don’t be, says Renae Cobley.
“So many high achievers find it hard to switch off, but work is like sport: you can’t play the game well without quality recovery time.”
Brooding over work issues poolside sets you up for chronic stress, she says. “Don't waste that precious holiday time with toxic thoughts. Surrender!”