The Back to Work Blues – it’s real, and treatable!


Dreaming at your desk about last week’s ski trip? Remembering your child’s face when she opened that “Star Wars” toy? Not remembering you have a meeting in 10 minutes? You are not alone. Doctors don’t officially have a name for this, there’s nothing specific in the office manual of mental disorders. The Twitterverse calls this the first week of 2016 blues or the #backtoworkblues or a “post vacation hangover”.

Feel familiar? This crankiness about the first Monday back to work is perfectly normal according to Dr. Angelos Halaris.

“There is probably more than one good reason for this,” said the professor of psychiatry and behavioral neurosciences at Loyola University in Illinois.

“It’s more than likely during the 10 to 14 days of the holiday season, with Christmas and New Year’s, we tend to go overboard even in the best sense — overeating, overdrinking and not sleeping enough — that all sets the stage for the post-holiday crash.”

This extra stress on your body, combined with the stark contrast of the joy and freedom of family and friend time with the drudgery of answering a zillion work emails, can be hard on your emotional well-being. Not used to the usual stress you took in stride before the holidays, you may react extra badly this week and next….such as the unfriendly tone you take when your alarm sounds each morning.


For many of us, the holiday season is like a dream world, and hopefully people have had a good dream, but, it’s like a dream that literally ceases overnight. There’s a real sense of loss that comes with this transition period that makes us all a little sad and cranky. Even if your holiday didn’t meet your expectations, you still may not be happy about getting back to work and away from your crazy family.

“People tend to have high hopes coming into Christmas thinking time with their family will be like the Waltons or thinking Santa will bring us all that we want, but it never totally works out that way even if it was a really good holiday,” Dr. Randy Hillard said.

The holidays just get us so pumped up, we look forward to them like no other period, and our expectations flourish with illusions, and when the crashing reality of back-to-work hits us, we tend to feel a little down, like our favorite toy just got recalled for something we don’t understand.

Winter, which for many of us didn’t make such a wondrous appearance this year, and for others made us feel like Jon Snow on ‘The Wall’ in Game of Thrones, and adds to this perfect storm of gloom. It still gets dark early, much of the world is cold and it’s wet. Seasonal Affective Disorder can be particularly acute if you’ve enjoyed a sunny beach vacation.

So, what can you do to bring back that holiday feeling even if you’re at the office?

First, treat all colleagues like they’re insane for the next couple of weeks, it works with family members too. Know that most people feel like they are in the same sinking boat.

Ease back into work…


Many of us are like the video above, where we pretend to work while visions of holiday’s past dance in our heads. Ease your way back into your routine, set small goals to feel a sense of accomplishment. Nothing feels better and sets a more positive tone than feeling like you’re making progress toward something of meaning. Don’t dwell. Know that something you enjoyed has come to an end, but make your peace with it and know it will come back again. “Resist the dark side Luke!”

Another trick, is to take advantage of the break in your routine and start new office habits. Even if it’s something small, like being friendlier to random co-workers or getting up to walk away from your desk once an hour (like in my previous article), it helps.

Think about what you liked about your break and bring an element of it to your work. Pajamas and flip-flops may not be in the dress for success plan, but if you enjoyed connecting with friends you don’t normally see, squeeze them into your weekly schedule, even if it’s for a 15-minute coffee….and do connect. People who are blue tend toward withdrawal.

Finally, prescribe yourself with an evening out with relatives or friends in the upcoming weeks….without of course, being drunk or overeating or staying up too late to start the cycle over again. It can help you be mindful that while the holidays are over, you can still have fun!

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