While you look forward to putting your feet up this holiday season, enjoying some delicious food, and the comfort of family and friends, you no doubt can’t wait to let a few responsibilities melt away as you indulge your time off. In many offices, there are extra vacation days built-in for the holidays, with some even closing entirely between Christmas Eve and the New Year holidays.
But whether your time off is relatively long or a bit shorter, the holidays have a particular effect on people — it puts them in mind of a slower pace of life that can make a return to the office especially jarring. For an unlucky few, the return can even cause untold anxiety as they mourn the loss of all the joys that come with managing their own time and multiple days off with their loved ones.
Even worse, the last few days of the break can be ruined by persistent thoughts of a return to the grind, a phenomenon known in weekend breaks as the “Sunday Scaries.” It’s an issue that can happen after any time off, and it not only makes going back harder, it also eats into the precious time you have to relax.
What characterizes post-holiday blues and anxiety?
There are different aspects of the return to the office that you might find stressful, daunting, or complicated. They can also happen in combination. Here are some of the major issues:
We spend lots of time preparing for and anticipating the holidays. From decorating the house to preparing for company and big meals, the wind-up is significant. And then suddenly, it’s over. Getting back to the day-to-day with perhaps nothing big to look forward to can cause some depression, or at least disappointment.
Making a jump from relaxation, indulgence, and comfort (sleeping in!), to your usual busy, carefully planned, structured life proves to be an ugly contrast for many. Making the switch back can cause a real shock to the system.
If you’re like many workers, you put in extra hours to get yourself and your firm into a good position starting in the New Year. What faces you now is a new set of tasks and goals added to anything that carries over into the new year from the old. It can feel overwhelming and insurmountable.
Loss of Freedom
During vacations, you presumably get to make more of the decisions about how to spend your time. You could be catching up on your reading, spending time with loved ones, binging that series you’ve been told about… or maybe just sleeping in and taking things as they come. Getting back to a regular schedule of someone else dictating your time can feel confining and difficult.
Time to Evaluate What Your Challenges/Miseries Are at Work
Over an extended vacation, we often note how relieved we are to be away from particular situations, responsibilities, or people. As the time approaches or arrives to return to them, those issues seem to inflate after having had some time to disregard them, making them seem more prominent and insistent than ever before.
So, How Do You Beat the Blues?
1. Cultivate Gratitude For Your Career:
The power of gratitude cannot be overstated. As you prepare to return to work, take a moment to list three things about your job that you're genuinely grateful for. This simple exercise serves as an instant reframe from the mindset from "I have to go back to work" to "I get to go back to work." By focusing on the positive aspects of your job, you can shift your perspective and lay the foundation for a more positive work experience.
2. Have a "Work Resolution" This Year:
Just as you set resolutions for your health, consider creating a "work resolution." Resolutions aren’t just about getting back to the gym; they’re about having a moment to reset certain areas that you’ve been neglecting.
Take a moment to reflect on your professional goals and aspirations. Have you included a work-related resolution in your plans for the year? Well-rounded goals encompass both personal and professional aspects of your life. When you have a clear focus, you're more likely to be motivated about going back to work, rather than succumbing to feelings of dread.
How to make it last? Make sure it’s SMART: specific, measurable, actionable, relevant and time-bound. Consider an accountability buddy or support system to help make your goal attainable.
3. Engage in Wintertime Post-Work Hobbies:
The winter season offers a unique opportunity to explore post-work hobbies that bring you joy. With darker evenings and a break from the overwhelming amount of after-work and weekend plans, it's the perfect time to discover a new hobby. Consider engaging in a handcraft activity such as stitching, painting, carving, or candle-making. These activities not only provide a creative outlet but also serve as a therapeutic way to unwind after a day spent in front of a computer.
4. Embrace the Danish Concept of Hygge:
As winter settles in, fully embrace the Danish concept of "hygge," which translates to "illuminating the soul." Hygge emphasizes the act of creating a cozy and warm atmosphere during the chilly winter months. When was the last time you made hot cocoa after a walk in the snow or enjoyed a quiet moment snuggling on the couch with a loved one? Perhaps you have a favorite blanket that brings comfort during this time of year? Embracing hygge involves intentionally creating moments of warmth and connection, contributing to a more heart-warming winter experience.
5. Set Aside Time For The Outdoors:
Despite the colder temperatures (assuming you live in an area where cold is an issue), spending time in nature during winter is crucial for overall well-being. A 2019 study suggests that at least 120 minutes a week in nature is associated with good health and well-being. What makes this study particularly encouraging is that it tracks 120 non-consecutive minutes, making it feasible for those in the accounting industry to achieve, even in wintertime.
The challenge in winter often lies in the perception of it being too cold. Proper attire is key. Starting from the skin outward, wear moisture-wicking, non-cotton fabric for the base layer to keep you dry, an insulated mid-layer (fleece or lightweight puffy jacket) for warmth, and a heavier, waterproof, and windproof shell for protection. Don't forget the essential add-ons: wool socks, waterproof gloves, and a hat. Once properly dressed, immerse yourself in the beauty of winter with activities like walking meetings with colleagues, taking a short afternoon break to enjoy "golden hour," hiking, local ice skating, snowshoeing, or stargazing.
If you’re lucky enough to live in an area where the cold isn’t restrictive and snow isn’t an issue, you have even more outdoor opportunities to take advantage of.
Here’s the truth: it’s not an easy time for many of us. The cold, the dark, and the impending busy season hamper our joy. The end of 2023 means that busier months are ahead. It's important to acknowledge that this time can be particularly demanding for our professional community; however, the absence of taking care of oneself during these winter months only increases our likelihood of burnout.
Returning to work after a prolonged holiday break can undoubtedly be painful, but only if you let it. When you reframe your mindset, however, alongside the motivation that comes from new year, you can be unstoppable.
Maybe you started this article a bit skeptical wondering if it’s even possible to avoid post-holiday blues in our profession. Hopefully these 5 ways to ease your return to work and beat the post-holiday blues can propel you beyond the traditional thoughts of dread that come with this time of year and usher in a sense of optimism and possibility instead.
As you return to office after a long break, consider how you can make the most of this unique time of year to your advantage.
If getting tedious bookkeeping work off your plate would help alleviate some anxiety, then Botkeeper has the perfect solution.
Lauren is a Burnout Coach, International Speaker, and Wellbeing Consultant. You can reach her and see all the great things she has to offer at www.acheloawellness.com.