This week, many New Zealanders will have gone back to work after what may feel like an all-too-brief summer break.

It can certainly feel like hard yakka: ditching the beachwear for more formal attire, forgoing a welcome lie-in to beat the traffic in for an early start, and then being office-bound for eight hours or more, glued to a phone and/or computer screen, watching the sun beat down on the other side of the glass, stuck back with those annoying colleagues you were only too happy to see the back of last year and a boss keen on cracking the whip and making up for lost production time.

All too soon it can feel like the long, lazy, hazy days of summer are but a dim, distant memory, and it's back to the daily grind for another whole year.

Yup, it's the back-to-work blues at their most extreme.


The feeling of gloom can also be complicated by the financial hangover from Christmas and holiday spending, the discomfort of the kilos gained from all that over-indulgence, and the nagging knowledge that all those New Year's resolutions you made (you know the ones: drink less, quit smoking, go to the gym …), well, you haven't quite had the will or found the way to actually start working on them yet.

Of course, for some people, Christmas and New Year may not have offered the happy family time and R&R desired. The financial and emotional pressures on families and relationships around this time of year are immense. It is a time of increased domestic violence, relationship break-ups and emotional meltdowns. For some, a return to work is a relief. Others may have worked through the festive season or not have had much of break at all. It is by no means a Happy New Year for all.

So, how best to cope if you're feeling more down-in-the-dumps than full of joie de vivre?

The answer, according to many experts, including the Mental Health Foundation, is simply to go easy and be kind to yourself. It's good advice - at any time of year.

Specifically, the foundation says a good way to beat the back-to-work blues is to start planning - and even booking - your next holiday. That way, the year doesn't yawn ahead. It also means you're committed to taking a break, and won't be able to tell yourself you're too busy - or let work tell you the same. Northland, Auckland and Wellington anniversary days are coming up as well as Waitangi Day on February 6, so a long weekend might be possible sooner than you think.

And when it comes to work itself, expert advice is to be clear about what you want to achieve in the coming year. It might be time to seek a move into another department or a promotion.

Of course, if work is really getting you down, it might also be the time to consider a change of workplace or vocation. It doesn't hurt to start putting the feelers out, and learn some new skills that might help with the transition.

And if those blues just won't go away, make sure you tell someone how you're feeling. It could be a friend, family member, colleague or neighbour, or a phone helpline. They could help you put things in perspective, and help you take control of your new year - rather than it feeling like it's the other way around.