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Tips for Beating Back-to-Work Anxiety After the Holidays

Adults |

First there’s Canadian Thanksgiving, and then Halloween, and then winter holidays like Christmas, Hanukkah, and New Year’s – and with all of this build-up of excitement (or chaos and stress, depending on who you ask) by the time it’s time to go back to work, it’s not uncommon to feel a little off-kilter. Getting back into your normal routine, tackling everything that you’ve missed at work while you’ve been off, and recovering from the “emotional hangover” of holiday festivities can take a lot out of us, leaving many feeling more anxious than usual. If you’re feeling like you need some time off to recover from your “break,” read on for some helpful hints for getting back into the swing of things!

Set realistic goals

If you were away from work for the holidays, you might yourself stressing about what’s piled up since you’ve been gone. It’s tempting to try and catch up right away, but if you aren’t making sure to set attainable goals for yourself, you may just end up failing to meet your own unrealistic expectations and feeling even worse afterwards. Just like New Year’s resolutions, while it’s good to challenge yourself sometimes, it’s important to make sure you’re being kind and reasonable towards yourself too. Start with smaller, easier tasks – things you feel confident about being able to complete in 30 minutes or less – to help give your brain a sense of accomplishment and ease you back into a rhythm.

Ease back into your routine gently

When a New Year rolls around, lots of us feel the need to whip our lives into shape instantaneously. In many cases, though, it’s better to take a more flexible approach rather than overwhelming yourself when there’s likely already a lot on your plate getting back to work or school (when you may be feeling pretty exhausted). For example, if you’re someone who typically works out four times a week but have spent the holidays relaxing, aim for two times a week for the first little while as you adjust. If you jump straight from the slow-paced, chilling-by-the-fireside life to waking up early every day again, sorting out meals for the week, exercising every day, and still trying to be productive at work, you might burn yourself out. Take breaks, be gentle with yourself, and know that it’s totally okay if it takes some time to get back into your routine.

Be prepared

Although time off work is supposed to help you feel rested and renewed, sometimes the holidays can leave you feeling pretty exhausted. Sleep deprivation and stress can certainly spike anxiety levels, and while the above tips are helpful at trying to minimize stress, it’s a good idea to have a few calming techniques in your back pocket for if you do start to feel anxious at work. Even if you’re not experiencing a full-blown panic attack, our article 3 Things to Try During a Panic Attack includes techniques that can help when you’re feeling overwhelmed. Even if you don’t have to actually utilize them in the moment, having some tools at your ready can be calming in and of itself.

Find something to look forward to

One tried and true way that people cope with the back-to-work slump is to book another vacation. Now, that’s not necessarily a realistic solution for most people, but the idea of creating something for yourself to look forward to can be applied to virtually anything that you would feel excited about: whether you buy tickets to a concert or play, or plan a fun night-in with a friend you don’t get to see often, you might find having even something small something to look forward to is helpful in getting you over this first hump. 

Lastly, keep in mind that hitting a rough patch while adjusting back to daily life post-holidays is completely normal. Seeing everyone’s social media posts about the New Year and their resolutions can feel defeating if this transition has been stressful for you. Keep your head up, keep going, get lots of rest, and reach out for help if you need it.