Tips to beat those back to work blues

By Matthew Backhouse, Teuila Fuatai

Rotorua residents struggling with the post-holiday grind are likely to be suffering from the back-to-work blues.

The Mental Health Foundation says people often find returning to work tough after their summer break. It has offered tips to help counter post-holiday depression.

A Rotorua counsellor says most people are unlikely to be overjoyed about returning to work.

However, Malcolm Skinner, who has been counselling for 13 years, said Rotorua people didn't really seem to have any major problems with returning to work.

He said he was yet to encounter any major problems experienced by workers heading back to the daily grind after holidays.

"For many people their work lives are so busy with very long hours that they just go back with a sense that 'this is the way life is and we just have to get on with it'."

Most people who struggled returning to work were probably already dealing with additional "life problems", Mr Skinner said.

Gloomy days in the middle of winter seemed more of a problem for people feeling down than post-summer holidays, he added.

Mental Health Foundation chief executive Judi Clements said returning to work could have a profound effect on people, particularly those who had a busy and stressful break.



She recommended easing back into work.

"Try thinking about when your next break is so you're not contemplating an endless work period without any break.

"For some it might be a good time to think, 'Well, if coming back to work feels so gloomy and awful, is this really the right place for me?"'

It is important that people look after themselves by getting enough sleep, eating well and exercising.




The blues was a fleeting feeling for most, but those who were still anxious or down after a few weeks should consider talking to their GP.

"It might not just be back-to-work blues - it might be depression or an anxiety state that needs some help."

Auckland University workplace psychology expert Helena Cooper Thomas said holidays were good for recovering but the effects were "relatively short-lived".

People returning to work should continue to make the most of the good weather and make time for activities they enjoyed, such as exercise, hobbies, gardening or music.

In order to feel engaged at work, people needed to be mentally and physically available, feel safe in the work environment and consider their work meaningful, Dr Cooper-Thomas said.

Some people might not want to return to work because of anxieties about childcare, or safety issues, like an unpleasant workplace environment.

"So they have to consider these factors and they might need to change what they're doing. But otherwise, just try to focus on the good."


Signs of back-to-work blues

  • Feeling disoriented and taking a "go-slow" attitude

  • Little interest in work or focusing on your next holiday

  • Feeling irritable, in a bad mood or suffering headaches

What can you do to reduce it?

  • Organise your work space and give your desk a personal touch

  • Think about learning some new skills this year

  • Arrange a job review to discuss ways to stay fulfilled and challenged

  • Ensure you have at least 15 minutes a day of personal time

  • Arrange after-work activities to look forward to on evenings or weekends

  • Look after yourself - get more sleep, exercise, and eat better

Source: Mental Health Foundation



- Rotorua Daily Post

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