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The back to work blues – can you beat it?

It’s the New Year and your head may be spinning with dissatisfaction, dread, New Year resolutions and a post-Christmas hangover. Fear not. Craig Jackson, Professor of Occupational Health Psychology at Birmingham City University, has some vital advice.
Many employees are suffering from the back to work blues.

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The back to work blues – can you beat it?

It’s the New Year and your head may be spinning with dissatisfaction, dread, New Year resolutions and a post-Christmas hangover. Fear not. Craig Jackson, Professor of Occupational Health Psychology at Birmingham City University, has some vital advice.
Many employees are suffering from the back to work blues.

What is the back to work blues?

We all experience it at different times and we all call it different things. It’s that sense of worry, dread and resignation that comes after a long period of inactivity. 

You know the feeling. It’s what strikes after a holiday to a beautiful location or an extended period of time chilling with the kids. Most usually, though, these back to work blues strike most menacingly after Christmas. 

It is only natural and quite normal that the ending of the festive period is overshadowed by the norm. It is simply part of the natural ‘down’ following the ‘up’ of Christmas. 

Whether you love your job or loathe it, you will go through these emotions when returning to work. It may last a day, it may last throughout the winter period until we see more daylight. 

Whatever the prognosis, it’s time to apply some helpful methods to help you get out of this funk. 

Life is a wheel consisting of ups and downs, according to the philosopher Boethius, and the downs are nothing to be fearful of.

Focus on the reality 

Let’s be honest, most of the time the reality of returning to work is rarely as bad as most people think. If you’re reading this at your desk at work, you’ve already made it through your first day. 

You may still be wrestling with a routine, which is understandable. The festive period knocks our day-to-day activities out of the park in exchange for events, meals and general frivolity. 

Not only that, but you may also be introducing and trying to maintain fierce New Year resolutions such as diets and new hobbies. 

It really is a case of one day at a time. Some others may benefit from a structure that replaces that hazy period you may still be lost in post-Christmas, some may not. 

After a few weeks of being at home in a more cloistered environment, you may also be struggling with social anxiety. Take it one step at a time and don’t overwhelm yourself with meetings and emails. 

Set and embrace smaller challenges 

Breaking your work into a series of smaller challenges will help. Focus on smaller tasks, such as:

  • The commute into and out of work
  • Dealing with the email and work backlog 
  • Reconnecting with people and colleagues 
  • Getting back into a routine

It also helps to embrace the tiny positive things or ‘micro wins’ about returning to work. There are many to enjoy if you think about. For example:

  • Freedom from the family (always a plus after a hectic festive period)
  • Being back out in the fresh air 
  • Wearing smart clothes again
  • Feeling a sense of achievement from work

They may only be small, but these slithers of pleasure can really make the working day less painful and eradicate those back to work blues.

As Aristotle proclaimed, “All work absorbs and distracts the mind” and the power of being busy to distract us from other worries should not be overlooked.

Keep the happy atmosphere

Goodwill, kindness and festivities shouldn’t end on December 31st. Leadership should encourage the return to work and keep the happy atmosphere that existed over Christmas. 

If employers can offer some flexibility and anticipate that undertaking a full working day after the festivities may be tiring and fatiguing, this will help. 

Be assured, typical markers of public health (depression, suicidal deaths, suicide attempts) show no increase around this period. 

This is not a request to ignore mental ill-health problems and the depression that many people suffer, but it is an appeal not to be sucked into believing that a return to work MUST result in feeling down.

Although the days are still cold, dark and payday is still a while away for many, you are not obliged to feel bad – you have a choice in beating these back to work blues.

Are you seeking change?

If you’re still feeling down and unfulfilled, it might not just be a Christmas hangover. Perhaps it’s time to seek a new opportunity, to diversify, to foster change. 

If you’re looking to build your business, start a new venture or introduce new technology to your company, January is a good place to start. 

BCU Advantage boasts a plethora of programmes and services that can reintroduce the excitement and fun if you’re still flagging come February. 

Interested in finding out how to make returning to work more rewarding? Contact BCU Advantage with your query and we will be in touch. 

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