My suggestion on how to beat the post holiday blues is to start planning a strategy before you go on holiday. Also make some time after your holidays to take stock of what happened, the way you feel and what your body needs.
Our bodies are programmed to function on pre-established routines: regular mealtimes and regular sleeping patterns. Any disruption to those routines will create mood swings, fatigue, lack of energy and a general sense of dissatisfaction.
One way to establish how disrupting your routine can affect your general well-being is to see how your body reacts at the weekend.
The Adverse Effects of the Weekend Lie-In
Having a lie-in at the weekend may affect your energy levels and sleep. Some people complain of getting a headache if they sleep late at the weekend.
If alcohol consumption is involved, the effects of the hangover can drag on for up to 48 hours.
If you multiply this for the amount of days you are away on holiday, it is no surprise that you may suffer from a “holiday hangover”.
While clinical depression needs professional treatment, feelings of sadness from going back to work can be dealt with by some small changes in behaviour.
If the sadness symptoms persist you need to speak to your doctor.
1 Before You Go on Holiday: Planning Your Post Holiday Strategy
Before you set off on holiday, work out a flexible routine that you can realistically stick to while on holiday.
Some people already plan their next holiday while they are on holiday, but without going to such extremes it’s a good idea to plan some small event or weekend away in advance after coming back from holiday.
From a trip to the theatre to a day trip out of town, having pleasurable activities lined up can do wonders for your mood.
Ideally plan all these activities before going on holiday, as you might be too busy on your return and you will get absorbed by work and family commitments.
2 Embrace a Healthier Lifestyle Before Going on Holiday
Embracing a healthier lifestyle is not just losing weight to look great in your holiday pictures, but it’s much deeper than that.
From setting a morning exercise routine to making some subtle changes to your eating habits, starting getting healthier before going away is the perfect antidote to the post holiday blues.
There is no point of going to a health retreat with yoga and vegan food if you eat junk food immediately before and after it. Instead, bring more balance into your day to day life by having some alcohol-free days in the week and replacing processed foods with freshly home cooked foods at least a couple of days a week.
The reverse is also true: if you are a fan of healthy eating and exercise but you let yourself go on holiday it might be very difficult to go back to the old habits. Keeping at least some of the healthy habits on holiday will ensure a much smoother transition to the daily routine.
While on holiday, learn how to meditate or, if you know how to do it already, ensure you take at least 10 minutes a day to meditate, regroup and recharge. Continue this habit when you go back to work to ensure a smoother transition.
3 Take One Day Off Before Going Back to Work
As part of your pre-holiday strategy, plan a buffer day. The prescription here is to take at least one day off as a buffer between coming back from holiday and going back to work.
Yes, there will be a pile of clothes to wash and lunch boxes to prepare, but having at least a whole day to get organised will ease the sense of anxiety.
Yale Video: Beat the Holiday Blues
4 Forget the Countdown
Many of us will start the countdown to the holidays weeks or months in advance. There are advantages and disadvantages in this attitude, but the disadvantages outweigh the advantages. Why? The countdown may trigger high expectations about the holidays and feelings of frustration with the daily routine. Instead of being a motivational tool to do things well, it can have the detrimental effect of doing things badly and rushing them in the run up to the holidays.
Another disadvantage is that, on return from holidays, there might be a resulting sense of emptiness.
Surely a holiday is not the highlight of one’s year? If you reduce all your happiness to one or two weeks in the year, what does it mean for the rest of the year?
5 Make Your House Spotless Before You Leave
Do some deep cleaning at home before your holiday, as it will make your home more welcoming on your return.
While you are cleaning, take the opportunity to do some clearing too: do you have too much stuff that you no longer need? Make space for the new (you might bring back a small painting or ornament from your trip) by throwing away what you don’t use or don’t like any more.
6 Beware of Holiday Spending
Do you associate a feeling of happiness with careless spending? Between the exchange rate and the carefree attitude of being on holiday, there is a risk of spending too much money on holiday. When the credit card bill arrives a month later, the card balance can make the existing negative feelings of the post holiday blues worse.
The solution is to stick to a budget while on holiday and control urges to impulse buy something by asking “will I still love this item 1 year from now?”
7 After Your Holidays: Be Kind to Yourself
It’s inevitable: life is great while you’re on holiday. Life sucks when you are back at work (unless you really love your job, but we all need a break from work).
Just allow yourself for a brief period of “mourning” or adjustment, as the reality of emails, meetings, commuting to work kicks in.
Listen to your own body and, if you think you need to go to bed early, do so.
8 Mind Your Language
It happens to all of us: we start thinking “I hate going back to work” or “I hate my job” and we end up making ourselves miserable.
A shift in thinking is called for: try replacing “I hate going back to work” with “my job allows me to pay for my holidays and to support my lifestyle”.
If you look at social media updates, people will say things like “only a week ago I was drinking cocktails on the beach”, reinforcing a sense of nostalgia and lack of excitement in their lives.
“I want to turn back time”, “I have so many loads of washing to do” and “I am dreading the school run” are also popular frustrations on social media.
9 A Taste of the Exotic
Have you tried some new foods on holiday? Instead of souvenirs, why not bring home a recipe book or some dried ingredients to cook aromatic dishes that will bring back that holiday feeling?
Even better, why not explore your local area for ethnic food shops which may stock some dried and fresh ingredients?
10 Write Down What Is Good in Your Life Right Now
You might be back at work, but that’s not the end of the world. It’s good to remind ourselves that there are positive things happening to us every day. Get in the habit of writing down at least three positive things that have happened during the day: someone smiling at you while queueing for your morning coffee, a colleague paying you a compliment or getting home on time from work.
11 Digital Detox
Did you snap pictures while on holiday, sharing them on social media and messaged friends and family? Maybe it wasn’t such a great idea.
Leaving your mobile in the hotel might have been a better idea. Spending time in nature instead of looking at a screen can have beneficial effects on your health and help lower stress levels.
Resist the temptation to be glued to social media networks coming back from the holidays. Instead, organise to meet friends face to face.
12 Learn a New Language
Did you go to a foreign country and you couldn’t quite communicate in the local language? You could do an evening foreign language class, which can help you connect with other people and understand more about the local culture. This can be a way to reminisce about your holiday without feeling depressed.
Are You on the Right Track?
Before we jump on a train we check its destination: do we do the same with our career? Before going on holiday, think about the big picture and how you see your career in the next five years. Use the time you have on holiday to think about your job and how it fits with your overall life plans.
Do you have any unfulfilled dreams? Can you start making some progress towards them when you are back from holiday?
Many of us dream about quitting our jobs after coming back from a break, but it’s not as simple as that.
Life will be busy after the holidays but don’t let that distract you. Think long and hard about what happens next, but without jumping to quick conclusions. Write down your goals and go back to them after a couple of weeks. Do you think it’s time to change jobs or to ask for a pay rise?
How to Beat the Holiday Blues Recap
Before your holiday:
Plan activities for when you come back
Forget the countdown
Embrace a healthier lifestyle
Clean the house
Plan your holiday budget
Take one day off before going back to work
After your holiday:
Be kind to yourself
Mind your language
Taste new foods
Learn a new language