How to ease the post-holiday blues

Deborah McPhee, Brock University, Goodman School of Business, organizational behaviour, human resources, New Year's, routine, workplace, resolutions, holiday blues, holidaysYou aren’t the only one feeling the post-holiday blues and return-to-routine fatigue. But the good news is there are ways to ease the struggle of getting back to work after a break and keeping those resolutions for the year ahead.

Professor Deborah McPhee studies work/family balance and human resources policies at Brock University, and has tips on how to ease the challenges of transitioning from holiday bliss to working woes, particularly for parents who’ve spent the time with their kids.

“A lot of research doesn’t talk about the separation anxiety involved, for parents and kids,” says McPhee, associate professor at Brock’s Goodman School of Business. “You’ve built some great times with kids, you’re used to being with them all the time, then all of a sudden you’re not. You’re missing your children, pets, the whole thing, while also struggling to get back into routine.”

Although the holidays aren’t always the most relaxing time, removing the stress of work means parents completely focus on their families—a quick and easy adjustment.

One of the best ways to mitigate the effects of the holiday hangover is to take things slow and make the transition as gradual as possible. Start planning ahead, and get the family to bed earlier each night leading into the return-to-routine.

“What’s really recommended is to set up a schedule for the week, don’t take on too much at the beginning,” says McPhee, who worked in human resources for 20 years before entering the academic world. “Maybe just deal with emails for the first day back. If you go back to work resenting the fact you’re back at work, you’re going to have a harder time. If you jump into things right when you arrive, it’ll also be difficult.”

McPhee also encourages parents continue positive socializing throughout the year to avoid a holiday expectation build up, and coinciding let down. Activities such as going to the movies or having dinner parties can occur throughout the year.

“Look at the positive things you can do going forward,” says McPhee. “Look at what you liked from the holidays and keep that magic going. Don’t feel you need to let go of these things just because the holidays are over. Make sure you’re always making time to connect with family and friends, these things make us feel good.”

Employers recognizing their employees might be slightly slower the first week back helps ease the transition. Although certain appointments and deadlines are immovable, employers can avoid major meetings and events during this time.

“You can still enjoy work and feel slightly depressed coming back to it after a break,” says McPhee. “Employers can use this opportunity to meet with their employees and set goals for the following year, it gives a positive experience. Let employees get up to speed.”

Other ways to bring the positive aspects of the holidays to the workplace includes connecting with colleagues, getting up and walking around, and taking breaks.

“Instead of emailing a colleague down the hall, go see them. You’re adding movement to your day and also connecting with other workers.”

Employers can foster a culture of trust throughout the year, where it’s believed work will get done in a timely manner and employees don’t feel like they’re on the clock or being monitored. They can take time for breaks or to interact with colleagues using their own discretion.

The beginning of the year is also a time for those infamous New Year’s resolutions. Not only are people struggling to get back into routine, they’re also trying to achieve new things they weren’t doing before.

Making sure your resolutions are realistic keeps post-holiday blues at bay, as these small accomplishments add to a better sense of self. McPhee advises creating achievable goals that account for “down time”.

“Many people say I’m doing nothing after work so I can go to the gym three times a week,” says McPhee. “This is unrealistic, start with routines that include a short walk, then build up to the gym. Keep in mind that you aren’t doing nothing when you’re watching TV. This is relaxing time, people need it.”

Whether the holidays are a positive or negative experience, most people aren’t immune to the effects of the aftermath. The expectations for the break, both personal and societal, can be enough to leave people feeling slightly depressed and let down.

“The holidays really do cause a lot of havoc that people don’t realize,” says McPhee. “In general, if you’re in a good place, then family’s going to be in a good place. If parents are stressed, it’s stressful on the family. Work/family balance is really important when it comes to employee productivity.”

Tagged: Jobs & the Economy

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