After a long-awaited vacation, it can be tricky to get back into the swing of things at work.
Studies have revealed that “post-vacation syndrome” is a very real affliction that affects many Canadians, including those returning to work after May’s long weekend. In fact, the Japanese have a term for the sort of anxiety typical of the season: Gogatsu-byou, or “May Sickness.” It’s during the month of May that many students, new grads, and those recently entering internships or the workforce may feel deflated, a sensation that can be greatly exaggerated after a vacation.
But don’t despair! We’ve compiled a list of egg-cellent strategies to help you beat the post-vacation blues and get you back to your happy place (wherever you are in the world!).
Tip 1: Validate your emotions
It is perfectly natural to return from a vacation with a sense of disappointment or anxiety, and the faster you acknowledge this, the more quickly you can begin to recover from those pesky post-long weekend blues. If negative thoughts persist, try to recognize them and imagine letting them pass. Take control by practicing mindfulness, a moment-to-moment nonjudgmental awareness of your thoughts and feelings.
In clinical studies, mindfulness has proven to reduce symptoms of anxiety, stress and depression. Practicing it in the aftermath of a vacation encourages your mind to reflect on the happier moments and feelings of wellbeing, rather than dwell on negative thought patterns or work related anxieties. Research has even shown how mindfulness reduces the size of the amygdala, the part of the brain associated with fear and emotions.
Tip 2: Plan a fun activity after work
The return to reality after the long weekend can seem like a blow to many students and new grads, but there are ways to soften the impact. For example, try scheduling a fun activity that you can look forward to after work. Psychologists recommend physical activity, so think about going for a walk in the park, or if you’re looking to do something more out-of-the-box, try your hand at geocaching (an outdoor treasure hunting game using GPS technology) with a friend or family member. Being active will help you feel and sleep better, increasing your odds of finding post-vacation happiness.
Also, keep in mind that when planning for enjoyable post-work activities, you may want to put down that glass of wine. Alcohol is a depressant and has been proven to disrupt your sleep cycle, and a good night’s rest can definitely increase your mood and feelings of wellbeing.
Tip 3: Practice self-care
Being kind to yourself can greatly influence your perspective on returning to work and reality. Make the effort to incorporate routines that will make you feel good. Treat your body and mind well by striving to include healthy eating habits and physical activity in each day. You’d be surprised by how much these simple activities can lift your spirits, making you feel empowered and confident when you return to school or work.
Try to avoid putting yourself into work situations that might overwhelm you, such as scheduling too many meetings or phone calls on your first day back. Ease yourself back into work by prioritizing what needs to be done immediately, or identifying what tasks can be done quickly, and go from there.
Tip 4: Declutter your spaces
When organizing your work priorities, it can be helpful to start with your work space. A cluttered desk is not only a distraction, it could also be influencing feelings of anxiety. Start by evaluating the necessity of each item in your work space. Ask yourself how often you use this item or whether this item brings you happiness. The Japanese call items that “spark joy” tokimeku, and consultant Marie Kondo has written at length about the relationship between a neat space and happiness. Kondo advises to toss the stuff you neither use nor enjoy. Be sure that items you use frequently are accessible and organized. Remember the popular expression, “A place for everything, and everything in its place.”
It might also be useful to take a similar approach to your virtual spaces. Clean up your computer’s desktop or your inbox by purging any irrelevant messages.
Tip 5: Plan for a stress free return to work
If possible, try to make the transition back to work as painless as possible by getting ahead of your projects before leaving for the long weekend. The last thing you want to do is come back to work having to play catch-up on all your assignments and deadlines. By putting in that extra bit of effort just before the long weekend, you can truly enjoy your time off and return to work with a guilt-free conscious.
Additionally, while it may be tempting to hold off on coming home until the absolute last minute of the long weekend, it may be better to leave a little early and give yourself plenty of time to transition back to work. Also, you might want to hit the sack early the night before you return so you have the luxury of a relaxed morning where you can better prepare for the day ahead.
Tip 6: Plan your next vacation
The excitement of preparing for your next vacation can help temper the disappointment you might feel after a long weekend. There are also financial benefits to planning in advance: the earlier you begin your preparation, the more affordable your next vacation becomes.
Vacations are the perfect opportunity for some much needed rest and relaxation; a little time off can help you recharge and unwind from the stresses of day-to-day life. But if you want to make the most of it, you need to prepare not only for the vacation, but also for when you come back. Be sure that the vacation is working for you by being mindful of healthy habits which can help you kick the post long weekend blues in no time!