Finding it tough to get back to the real world after a fun vacation with family and friends? You’re not the only one, and you’re not imagining things. The “back to work blues” are a real phenomenon, and we’ve got some tips to ward off that feeling this holiday season.
As another holiday season rolls around, millions of Americans are experiencing something that’s much less frequently talked about in mainstream narratives: depression. The feeling of short-term depression after the glow of the holidays begins to fade and your daily routine returns is a totally normal and explainable phenomenon. For many, the “back to work blues” are something that they didn’t know other people struggle with as well. In the interest of promoting mental health, it’s worth shining a spotlight on these feelings and understanding why you might have them.
As most major holidays happen in about a 6-8 week span at the end of the year, it’s a time when many people are feeling especially good. Being around loved ones (even if they sometimes drive you crazy), eating lots of delicious food, perhaps indulging in some alcohol, traveling, sleeping less than normal — these are all things that combine to create a feeling of festivity and surges of dopamine into your brain’s reward centers.
But as we all know, these things are not sustainable. And when the holidays are over, the rest of our year-round routine can feel achingly dull by comparison. When you add in the fact that there’s another two months of cold, wintery weather during the holiday hangover period, it’s a perfect recipe for the blues.
Although there’s no specific pathology or diagnosis for this very specific mental health condition, there are still some ways we can recommend combating feelings of acute depression after the holidays. For starters, be compassionate toward your co-workers. Know that they’re not trying to annoy you — in fact, they’re likely dealing with their own back to work blues as well.
Consider trying to slowly re-integrate yourself into your daily grind rather than sitting down at 9am on Monday and expecting to be extremely productive from the get-go. Be patient with yourself and start with small, easily achievable tasks to remind yourself that work can be rewarding, too.
Finally, consider mixing up your daily habits a bit and perhaps talking to that co-worker or friend that you don’t interact with all that often. Social interaction, even if you’re a naturally introverted person, is what we’re wired for as human beings. A friendly conversation with someone you don’t normally talk to can remind you that life can be interesting and fun year-round, and that there are other ways to break your routine besides the distraction provided by each year’s holiday season.