Tips for a tears-free return to work after the holidays

This depression-like feeling just before the holidays’ end is responsible for ruining the last couple of days of our remaining break.

The holy days are almost ending, and the melancholy of returning to work is kicking in.

For years, I dreaded the return to work after the holidays. And during my school years, I was depressed for around three days before returning to school after Christmas, Easter or, even worse, the summer holidays.

What a waste of my precious time sacrificing the last days of a well-deserved vacation by filling them with negative emotions and thoughts about something inevitable!

If life were an endless holiday, it would be dull; if it were only work, it would be torture. We are privileged enough to experience both, and that’s a mindset worth cultivating.

We all fall into the trap of aggrandizing the impending and unavoidable return to work and reality, with an immediate negative impact on our psychology and a gloomy effect on our days off work. And then, the first day of work finds us in a funereal mood mourning the good old vacation days while questioning our choice to this job or any job, and struggling to unveil the meaning of it all.

Again, what a misuse of our treasured time and mental energy crying over spilt milk. I have personally decided that I have wasted enough time and “tears” all these years to mourn the return to work and daily life. A job and life that I have chosen to live and follow, so pity for my choices is not my cup of tea.

Tips for a tears-free return to work

1. It’s a matter of mentality!

The return to work and reality is unavoidable. Sooner or later, the last day of your dreamy vacation will arrive with the appropriate farewells. There is the easy and the painful way to do it; you choose which one to follow.

We can’t stop the inevitable; on the contrary, we can embrace it and move on instead of grieving. Let’s be frank, work is not the worst thing to happen to us!

2. Be grateful for your ability to work and enjoy holidays.

As I mentioned earlier, work isn’t the worst thing that can happen to our life. When the idea of returning to work after the holidays gives you the blues, just think of your luck to have the capacity to wake up every day and go to work. To be able to pay your bills and have a home while relishing some luxuries, such as going on holidays.

If you have ever been unemployed, even briefly, you can remember the agony of being jobless and the cruel uncertainty that comes with it. So, remember your privilege to work next time you feel hopeless about returning after a cherished pause.

3. Refrain from returning from the holidays right before the first working day.

This person used to be me. I would soak up even the last minute of being away from mundane reality by returning home the evening before I started work again. Well, that was a mistake, and as soon as I realized that, the return to work was ameliorated.

Nowadays, I give myself two days to transition from dreamland to reality. I make sure I have enough time to settle in, go grocery shopping, have my laundry ready or any other necessary chores and, most importantly, relax.

Nothing is worse than returning to work feeling stressed, overwhelmed and tired.  I instead invest in a good transition period than in one more day of holidays, for this investment pays back well.

4. Make a list of all the things you appreciate about your work.

Even if it’s your dream job, there are certainly some things you appreciate in your job. What are these things? Think of, or better yet, make a list of your work’s advantages and perks. Think of the colleagues that bring you joy, some of the work tasks that you regard as fulfilling and fun to work on, the goals you have set and can be realized via this job, the money you earn even if it doesn’t turn you into a millionaire, the nice office corner you might have, the flexibility of your working hours etc. 

Come on, admit it! Not everything about your work sucks. And if it does, then it’s high time you reconsidered your professional choices and path.

5. A well-curated first day back at work makes all the difference.

It sets the ground for a smooth return and a good week ahead; therefore, take your time with its effect and put in a bit more effort the day before.

How? Prepare a few healthy and nutritious snacks and lunch, stay hydrated throughout the day and get your calendar ready. Sure enough, some emails are waiting for you, some meetings and a couple of projects you have to set in action. Be mindful of your action plan.

Set time for checking emails, meeting professionally with colleagues and planning upcoming projects. Not everything can happen in one day. And, by all means, remember to schedule a well-deserved break to allow yourself to recharge and regroup!

6. Exercise, eat good food and get an early night’s sleep.

I know you have read this a thousand times in my essays, but I can’t stress enough how miraculous the combination of exercise-good nutrition-good sleep habits is.

It does sound like a ton of hard work, which includes good time management, goal commitment, an action plan and emotional turmoil, but it is all worth it one hundred percent. The results are so gratifying that you will not once regret it.

Especially on the days leading up to your return to work, the above combination will unquestionably boost your physical and mental health, lift your self-confidence and offer you the great gift of peace of mind of someone who knows the why and how in their life.

7. Build the anticipation for the work comeback.

The alarm going off surely doesn’t heighten the anticipation for what’s coming ahead. However, the sound of the alarm can be less painful if there is something to look forward to. Make yourself a nutritious and visually pleasant breakfast to start your day strong. Get up five minutes earlier to enjoy a cup of coffee while listening to your favorite podcast, the news or simply staring out the window in silence.

Try assembling an outfit and accessories that make you feel comfortable and confident wearing them. Even fixing your hair or nails in a certain way can do the trick. Or prep a delicious meal for the lunch break. And what about attending a lovely dinner right after work with a loved one?  Place on your desk a framed photo from a moment you adore, with someone special to you to cheer you up in challenging moments.

Returning to work after the holidays can be tears-free should you decide to make it as such. If life were an endless holiday, then it would be dull. And if it were only work, then it would be an insufferable torture. We are privileged enough to experience both, and that’s a mindset worth cultivating with tremendous benefits in our life.

This essay first appeared in the author’s blog The Notorious Notes.

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