Post-Holiday Blues: Is it real? Can I prevent it?
I’m sure you’ve heard of post-holiday blues or post-vacation blues. But does it really exist, or, as some say, is it a product of our hypochondriac society? Returning from vacation can be rough so here are some tips to handle it better!
What is Post-holiday blues?
Post-holiday blues, also known as post-vacation stress or depression, is defined as a group of common symptoms that people suffer when returning to their work, family or study obligations after a period of rest or vacation.
This feeling is based on the subjective sensation that the worker has upon returning to his or her job, and is characterized by an emotional level by apathy or sadness, and on a physical level by generalized tiredness.
Is Post-holiday blues real?
To date, there is no consensus in the scientific community on the existence or otherwise of post-holiday blues. The prevalence is also not well known, given that it has not been defined as a psychological paradigm. But the latest data seem to affirm that around 30% of the population suffers or has suffered symptoms associated with post-holiday blues.
Actually, what happens to most people is that they suffer a certain amount of stress when changing the beach and the beach bar, or skiing or family time for the alarm clock, early morning traffic jams, loads of emails etc. That stress is perfectly normal, and it would not be considered in any way as post-holiday blues.
What most workers suffer is a process of readjustment to their working lives, whatever the type of activity they are returning to.
So when speaking about post-holiday blues, we refer to returning to a hostile work environment, or where the worker does not feel valued and respected. Being under a lot of job stress can lead to burnout syndrome.
In short, although it is not possible to reach a consensus today on the existence or otherwise of post-holiday blues, there is general agreement that there is a feeling of certain stress and unease in the return to work routine.
It also correlates with the time you spend on your vacation. That is to say, the longer you are on vacation for the harder it is to come to terms with going back to work.
Symptoms of Post-holiday blues
It is important not to trivialize these symptoms or confuse them with homesickness after the summer. Symptoms can last up to 10 days, however, if after this period the symptomatology does not descend or disappear, we are talking about something else that could be more serious. Do not hesitate to consult a psychologist or psychiatrist if this is your case.
When the pressure of returning to work is high, we can develop acute stress, which affects us both physically and emotionally.
Physical symptoms of post-holiday blues
You may experience fatigue, tiredness, drowsiness, poor concentration and attention, headache, tachycardia, lack of appetite, insomnia, and even stomach problems.
Psychological and emotional symptoms of post-holiday blues
Among them, the most common are apathy, melancholy, strong feelings of nostalgia, irritability, insecurity, fear of losing control and restlessness.
Common causes of post-holiday blues
The post-holiday blues may plague more people this year as concerns about the economy, world issues, less insurance, etc. arises. This can cause stress and pressure to reach certain goals. Some common causes of post-holiday blues are:
- Overeating: During the holidays, there is a tendency for all of us to eat too much, which can lead us to feel worse about our body image and ourselves. Obesity is a growing problem in the United States which can make coming back from holidays very difficult.
- Lack of sleep: People on vacation spend more time celebrating, going out and meeting new people. This sometimes means less sleep which can contribute to making you tired and lethargic during your workday. To avoid this one should keep healthy sleeping habits during vacation.
- Increased alcohol use: Meeting people can also be a synonym of drinking alcohol. This may cause tiredness when going back to work.
- Overscheduling: Being on vacation means having to see all those people you have a hard time meeting while working. This means a packed schedule of back to back engagements. Don’t overbook yourself. Limit your interactions and going back to work won’t be as tiresome.
- Time change: Time changes and jet lag can also be a big cause for post-holiday blue. It is highly related to lack of sleep, decreased energy, sadness, a decrease in interest or pleasure in activities.
- Lack of time for oneself: Going back to work can mean having less time for yourself which can cause great strain. Remember that even though you have to go back to work you can always dedicate some time to yourself, working out, taking a long bath, etc.
10 Tips for Preventing Post-holiday blues:
Tip 1: You’re not Superman
You’re not a superhero and so you need a period of adaptation. Plan your return a few days in advance, so that the comeback is not so abrupt.
Setting small short-term goals is an excellent remedy to face the new day with a positive attitude and illusion, and will help you cope with the feeling of apathy and sadness.
Tip 2: Join Midweek
In line with the previous advice, facing work midweek can be a great asset since Friday comes sooner. Try not to add complementary activities for at least the first few days.
Tip 3: Take advantage of breaks
Lunch break is a great time to do some enjoyable activity such as reading, catching up with your friends, or just sitting quietly with your thoughts.
Take advantage of those little breaths you have at work to continue doing some of these activities.
Tip 4: Have regular hours
Even if you didn’t go to bed before 2am on your vacation, once you’re back in the routine it can be very harmful. You need a minimum of hours of sleep to be productive the next day.
Ideally, you should start going to bed and getting up according to your work schedule about four or five days before you return to work. This will have an advantage over the adjustment period.
Tip 5: Beware of Alcohol and Caffeine
Alcohol is a depressant of the nervous system, so it can aggravate the symptoms of apathy and sadness caused by post-holiday blues.
On the other hand, caffeine can intensify the symptoms associated with stress; and it can increase your anxiety.
It is recommended that you monitor their consumption for at least the first few days.
Tip 6: Plan nice things for the first few days
Yes, we have to clean, put washing machines, do the shopping, and 26136 other things. Don’t start cleaning and doing everything on the first day if you don’t want to start crying. Plan your duties and, above all, devote the first few days to doing pleasant things. For example: create a holiday album or finish your book.
Tip 7: Practice sports
Practice sports, this helps segregation of endorphins that will help counteract the effects of stress on your body. When we are stressed we release high amounts of cortisol, and endorphins are the perfect ally. It is also a healthy option to start a routine.
Tip 8: Set boundaries and learn to say “no”.
It’s never too late to change, especially if it’s for the better. If your needy co-worker is already asking you to help them, tell them no. Plain and simple. You’re adjusting to your work pace again and the last thing you need right now is an overload of work, especially when it’s not your responsibility. Practice assertiveness to improve your social skills.
Tip 9: Be patient
These symptoms will last for about 10-15 days at most, and you will gradually return to your normal state. Following the above tips will make it even easier to adapt to your routine. Remember that if the symptoms persist over time, it would not be better to consult a specialist.
Tip 10: Keep a positive attitude
Maybe some positive psychology tricks can help you. You have to redirect your thinking and stop focusing work as a burden. I don’t think I need to tell you how lucky you are to have a job right now.
We hope this has helped with post-holiday blues and please feel free to leave a comment below.
This article is originally written in Spanish by Cristina Martínez Toda, translated by Alejandra Salazar.
Alejandra is a clinical and health psychologist. She is a child specialist with a diploma in evaluation and intervention in autism. She has worked in different schools with young children and private practice for over 6 years. She is interested in early childhood intervention, emotional intelligence, and attachment styles. As a brain and human behavior enthusiast, she is more than happy to answer your questions and share her experience.