Wish you weren't there?

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images
You’re back at work after a bit of a break, writes Jan Aitken.

You’re ready to kick off the new year with vim and vigour, only to find you’re feeling a bit flat. You can’t quite get into the swing of things, it’s all just a bit blah, blah and humdrum. Nothing in your life has changed, the same old irritations are still there and frankly, you’d rather head back to the lazy, hazy days of the summer holiday. Feeling a bit flat and depressed isn’t unusual after you come back from holiday. It’s a well known phenomenon often called the "holiday hangover" or the "post-holiday blues".

Holidays are full of fun and excitement. You catch up with friends and family and get to choose what you want to do and when you want to do it. It all comes to an abrupt halt in January. Instead of all the merriment, you have to deal with fatigue, going back to work, taking down those cheerful decorations, and potentially paying for all those presents and the added costs.

However, it’s not just the Christmas break that can leave you with a holiday hangover, any break away from your usual routine can leave you unsettled and dissatisfied when you return home and reality kicks in.

So, one way to reduce the post-holiday blues is to not take any more holidays. Yeah, right! Besides, it has been shown that those who take regular holidays have better physical and mental health. What then, can you do to ease the pain of returning to everyday life after a break away? Let’s take a look at some simple suggestions to help.

• Understand that feeling a bit blue after the holidays is not uncommon. Don’t berate yourself or tell yourself "to pull your socks up". That really isn’t helpful. Simply acknowledge how you are feeling and know that it will pass.

• Restore your routines as soon as possible, especially your sleep and exercise routines. These will help keep your energy levels up and contribute to a general sense of wellbeing.

• Plan other fun or enjoyable things for throughout the year. They don’t have to be expensive. In fact, they can be as simple as going to the movies, meeting friends for a cheap and cheerful meal, going  for a walk or trip to the beach. Don’t forget there are several long weekends scattered throughout the year to look forward to as well. Set up a calendar or wall planner where you can write the fun things up. Keep it visible so you know you have things to look forward to. Research has shown that anticipating something can be a powerful, positive emotion that can help us live happier lives.

• Connect with those important to you. You may be feeling a bit down and not very sociable, however, friends can provide a great mood boost. Really good friends will happily listen to some of your holiday stories and look at photos ...  maybe not all of them though.

• Tidy out the clutter. This may sound like an odd thing to do. However, living out of a suitcase, tent or small crib while on holiday can make you realise just how little you really need to enjoy life. Having fewer possessions can also focus you more on your present life, and give you a far greater sense of freedom.

• Be grateful, appreciate the holiday you’ve just had. Dr Tony Fernando, Auckland University psychiatrist, studies sleep issues, happiness and mindfulness. He discovered that being grateful "turbo charged" people’s happiness scores. He maintains that practising gratitude is the easiest, most do-able exercise we can undertake. It helps give us some perspective on our lives and is an antidote to getting complacent about what we have and  how good we have it.

Next time you’re planning a break away, you might like to take a moment to think about what you can do to make the return to reality less of a shock. Meanwhile, enjoy the anticipation of your next holiday!

The symptoms of the post-holiday blues are similar to those of "regular" depression — low mood, insomnia and trouble sleeping, anxiety, weight gain or loss, irritability and agitation to name a few. In general, depression related to the holidays is short-lived, usually lasting just a few weeks. If the blues continue, please consult your family doctor.

- Jan Aitken is a Dunedin-based life coach.

For more go to www.fitforlifecoaches.co.nz.

Twitter:@jan—aitken

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