How to beat post-holiday and pre-Christmas blues

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Returning from your summer holidays can be disorientating and stressful.

Worries about a mountain of work, combined with the changing season into colder darker days, can notably affect our motivation and productivity levels, as well as contributing to feelings of anxiety and stress.

Back to “real life”

“Post-holiday blues may at a glance appear focussed on the holiday coming to an end, but the anxiety often lies in returning to work,” says Nicky Lidbetter, chief executive at Anxiety UK.

“Worry around catching up with lost work time or returning to an environment with deadlines and responsibility can be a common cause of stress and anxiety. Holidays can be an escape from the day-to-day stresses which can underlie mental health problems, and once it’s over many people find themselves agonising over facing these problems once more.”

Dr Sally Ann Law, a personal and executive coach, says that to a degree post-holiday blues are natural, but that the feeling should be temporary, with concern warranted if you feel you’re living from holiday to holiday.

“Each person needs to figure out for themselves whether they are in fact far too unhappy with the life they are leading and using holidays as a desperate distraction, or whether they are merely positive elements to look forward to like many others. As with most things, it’s a question of degree to which something is having a positive or negative effect on life. It would not be great if a person were using the thought of a next holiday or trip as a crutch to making life bearable for instance.”

Jingle hell

And if feeling glum after a great holiday isn’t enough, changing seasons and the run-up to Christmas can add extra strain.

“The holidays can be an isolating and stressful time for many,” says Lidbetter. “Normal stressors such as financial worries, social events and busy shopping centres can be exacerbated by the overwhelming pressure society can put upon us at Christmas time.

“The dread that some experience can be a genuine concern, especially when combined with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), leading to the feeling of ‘the winter blues’ feeling insurmountable. The build-up of SAD and Christmas-related anxiety can have lingering effects such as weight gain, an altered sleep schedule and the loss of enjoyment of everyday pleasures and hobbies.”

Coping strategies

Dr Law’s Post-holiday tips

  • “If life really does feel bleak, then face up to that and work out what changes [you need] to make to feel generally happier on a day-to-day basis.”
  • “Start to make plans for the next trip away so you know it’s in the calendar and you can start to have fun planning it”
  • “Look to join some kind of club or go to a meet-up event where you’ll meet like-minded people who share your passion for that type of holiday/trip etc.”

Lidbetter’s SAD tips

  • “Those affected by SAD may not even realise why their emotions have changed so drastically and the low moods they experience may make them feel guilty or worthless. Confiding in a family member or close friend that you are feeling down this Christmas, and making yourself available to others who are experiencing the winter blues, goes a long way to reducing the stigma of SAD and making you feel less alone.”
  • “Try not to take on more than you can manage at work and have a conversation with your manager or staff if you are feeling overwhelmed. Make to-do lists and try to stick to a routine, even though it may feel easier to stay in bed.”
  • “Find the time to practice some self-care and be kind to yourself. Wrap up warm and go for a walk. Try to eat a balanced diet, even if you’re craving carb-heavy comfort food. Exercise. Mute social media for an evening and take a friend to coffee, or write in a journal. Some may find purchasing a SAD lamp, which produces artificial white light, to treat their symptoms of winter depression.”

For further advice on these issues please contact Anxiety UK.

Neil Johnson is a freelance business journalist who contributes regularly to trade publications and member organisations, covering employability, recruitment, business trends and industrial analysis.

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