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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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?

Adina Miron

5 Comments

  • Avatar Julie Wellis says:

    Unfortunately, people forget the meaning of the winter holiday and transform it into a stressful period of the year. There is a fine line between a pleasant holiday and a stressful month full of trying to please others. Christmas is about giving, but we do not need to be overcommitted to things that just aren’t possible. Try to relax around loved ones and choose your priorities – if some things can’t be done until January, it’s not such a big deal!

  • Avatar Jerry Tanaka says:

    I totally agree with you, Julie ! People have a hard time telling others no, and because of this they are going to find themselves overcommitted, tired, and stressed out. Winter holiday is about being with family and having a great time with them. We should learn to say no to activities we don’t want to do or don’t have time for.

  • Avatar Tracy Burton says:

    It can happen that one of symptoms of post-holiday stress is loneliness. During the Christmas holiday we are constantly around many people, but then suddenly we get back to our routine. We find ourselves surrounded by people we don’t know well – coworkers, managers – and this can affect us emotionally. A suitable solution would be to take it step by step. Even though your time is limited because of all your work, continue to stay connected with friends and family, or do activities with other people.

  • Avatar Lisa says:

    Post-holiday stress is a reality that almost all of us have dealt with at least once in our lives. My advice regarding this issue is to take a little time to think, take a breath, and make a plan of how you would like to manage your workload or time differently. Write it down and keep it somewhere visible so you don’t forget about it. Then try to stick to the plan.

  • Avatar Mary Schefield says:

    Going back to work after a holiday can be really frustrating. From my HR experience, I have noticed that the best approach to post-holiday stress is to make employees see the good side of the end of the holiday. They had the chance to rest, to relax and enjoy themselves. The busy Christmas time has ended and the peaceful time during both Christmas and New Year’s Eve has given them the opportunity to do different things that are not part of their usual routine. Any break in the routine is good for the spirit, so they should be glad for having had this time away from work.

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