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by Marianne Stenger | January 02, 2018


man working in dark coffee shop

With the holiday festivities behind us, most of us are heading back to work and tackling new career challenges. Yet getting back in the work groove is easier said than done, after nearly two weeks of lounging at home with friends, family, and unlimited amounts of food and drink.

Back-to-work blues are a real thing, and according to Dr. Angelos Halaris, professor of psychiatry and behavioral neurosciences at Loyola University in Illinois, the stark contrast between the fun of the holidays and the stress of work can be hard on our emotional well-being. Combine this with the fact that Seasonal Affective Disorder is more likely to strike during the winter months, and it’s not difficult to see why so many of us struggle to get back into our normal routines after the holidays.

So if you’re heading back to work this week and have been feeling a bit glum or out of sorts, here are a few ideas for banishing those post-holiday blues.

1. Get organized

In order to start your work year on the right note and minimize stress, it’s crucial that you get properly organized. If you can, try to give yourself a buffer day before heading back to work so you can sleep, plan your schedule for the next few weeks, and set some work-related goals for the coming year.

If taking a full day to regroup is not possible, try to set aside at least a few hours on your first day back to organize your work schedule, create a to-do list, mark down any important meetings or appointments, and declutter your desk.

And if your first day back is too hectic even to set aside a few hours, try to get organized the evening before you head back to work, or come in early in the morning to get a head start.

2. Leave your out-of-office email on

If you know you’ll have a lot of emails waiting for you after spending time away from work, you may want to leave your automatic out-of-office message on for a few extra days. This will give you time to work your way through the emails that have piled up in your absence, delete any spam or messages that may have been resolved in the meantime, and of course, send thoughtful responses rather than feel rushed to answer immediately.

3. Plan your next getaway

Many airlines and travel companies slash their prices at the beginning of the year to attract more customers during the January slump, so it’s a great month to book your next getaway.

Another benefit of planning your next trip is that it can lead to increased feelings of happiness, according to a study published in Applied Research in Quality of Life, a science journal. In fact, researchers found that vacation planning and the anticipation leading up to it may actually bring you more happiness than the vacation itself. So if you need a pick-me-up to get through your first few weeks back, planning a getaway will give you something new to look forward to.  

4. Get moving

Chances are your exercise routine suffered during the holidays, which may be why you’re feeling a bit sluggish. Exercise triggers changes in the brain and causes neurochemicals called endorphins to be released, which is why we usually feel happier and more energized after a good workout.

What’s more, research shows that exercise can boost your memory, improve your concentration, and enhance your creativity. So try to start your first day back with a quick workout, whether it be a 20-minute HIIT session in your living room, a brief jog in the park, or an early Zumba class at the gym. You’ll find that making small changes such as working out and setting goals will make you significantly happier upon returning to work.

Marianne Stenger is a writer with Open Colleges, one of Australia’s leading online education providers. She covers everything from career development to learning tips and the latest research in education. You can connect with her on Google+ and Twitter or find her latest articles here.