Ah, the holidays! A time of year when we happily string up twinkling lights, eat lots of cookies, and spend time with loved ones. It’s a special and joyous time unlike any other, which is why getting back to our normal routine after it’s over can be hard. Many people find that after taking a break from work for the holidays, maybe even going out of town, coming back is challenging. Going back to sitting at a desk for eight hours again, eating a cold sandwich at lunch, and dealing with a long commute is enough to make anyone feel stressed and depressed.
Stress most often manifests itself through physical and emotional symptoms such as tiredness, anxiety, sadness, headaches, and muscle tension. These symptoms are brought on by change, responsibilities, and demanding situations. When employees return from their holiday vacations they face all three causes of stress – there’s been a change in their lives (returning to work from vacation); they have to resume their responsibilities (completing their workload, taking the kids to school, etc.); and they have to deal with demanding situations (meeting deadlines, managing teams, etc.).
According to recent research, two-thirds of all workers feel stress after returning to work from the holidays. That’s an awful lot of employees who will be stressed, depressed, and anxious come January. This begs the question: is there anything workers can do to mitigate their post-holiday stress?
Here are eight ways to manage stress after the holidays.
Acknowledge your feelings. Holiday and post-holiday stress are very real, so don’t think you’re the only one. First things first: realize that it’s normal to feel stressed or depressed. Next, accept that it’s okay to express those feelings, and deal with them by whatever means work best for you.
Manage your time. Jumping right into work after a holiday can seem like a daunting task. Although you probably had an out-of-office message up, you can’t help but feel that you should respond to everyone as soon as possible. Realize that this is not a smart approach and that you need to effectively manage your time by setting priorities so you don’t feel overwhelmed.
Get some rest. The holidays are not usually the relaxing, stress-free time they seem to be. In fact, a lot of the stress that we bring into the workplace is leftover stress from the holidays. It’s likely that you didn’t get a minute’s rest with parties, events, and entertaining family. Plus, you probably didn’t sleep very well. When the holidays are over, make sure to get plenty of rest, including 6-8 hours of sleep a night.
Take a break. Make time for yourself. If you can, plan a quick, relaxing getaway. Or have a “stay-cation” where you settle in at home and hibernate. Even if you went away for the holidays, you probably spent the whole time dealing with relatives, shopping for gifts, and facing travel woes. Now that it’s over, set aside some time away from everything – it can be going away for the weekend to a B&B or as simple as scheduling a 60-minute massage.
Start small. Sure, you said you wanted to finish that strategic report right after the holidays, but facing such an overwhelming task might end up stressing you out more. Start with more manageable tasks, like answering emails and setting up staff meetings. Give yourself time to adjust before you jump into the deep end of work.
Work it out. Exercise is an incredible way to beat stress and depression. Working out releases endorphins, which make you feel happy and chase away the blues. When you return from the holidays, resume your exercise routine to start feeling like yourself again. If you didn’t really exercise before, consider starting now with something simple like walking or biking.
Try something new. Along the lines of starting a new exercise routine, picking up a new hobby or joining a club will shake things up and help get you out of the post-holiday blues. Part of the reason why returning to work is stressful is the thought of going back to our same old daily schedule. Starting something new will help change the schedule just enough to seem refreshed instead of stale.
Ask for help. If you feel like your plate is about to overflow, ask the people around you for help. You can ask your spouse to pick up the groceries or your coworker to brainstorm with you on a project. If after some time you still feel stressed or depressed, don’t hesitate to seek professional help.
Have you ever felt post-holiday stress? What did you do to help beat the blues?