How to Cope When You Dread Returning to Work in January After the Holidays

When you don't want to work after Christmas break, use these expert-backed tips to overcome your post-holiday dread and beat the back-to-work blues.

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By Morgan Greenwald, Best Life

When Christmas is over and the next major holiday break you have to look forward to is Easter weekend, it can be easy to fall into a slump. After spending weeks on end indulging in family time, delicious homemade food, and Christmas movie marathons, having to go back to a full work schedule feels unbearable. However, the end of the holidays doesn't have to mean the start of your post-holiday slump.

1. Decorate your workspace with fun holiday photos.

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Who says you have to leave the holidays behind once Christmas is over? According to clinical psychologist Carla Marie Manly, PhD, author of Joy From Fear, you can beat the post-holiday blues simply by bringing the holidays to the office with you.

"Embrace memories of the holidays that you can take with you into the new year," she says. "It can be helpful to take a great holiday photo to work as a reminder of the love and connection that will always be a part of you! Even if the holidays have ended, the fun-filled memories remain!"

2. Get a plant for your desk.

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When the post-holiday blues take over, an easy way to get back into the swing of things is with an office plant. "There is an abundance of research now to support that having a plant in your home can reduce stress," notes licensed social worker and therapist Michael Samar. He points out a 2009 study in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine that found that patients recovering from surgery had lower blood pressure and reduced anxiety levels when put in rooms with plants.

3. Remind yourself of everything you have to be grateful for.

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When you're stressing out about all the work that's piled up over the holidays, it's easy to forget about all the great things in your life. That's why Manly says that you should make a conscious effort to "count your blessings in the morning to start off the day in a positive way." Practicing gratitude before bed can similarly help you "stay strong and positive as the holidays come to a close." 

4. Write down everything that needs to be done and organize tasks by their importance.

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When the back-to-work blues have you feeling upset and unproductive, the first thing you should do is write down all of the things that need to get done. Within this list, "organize work that needs to be done for each [task] and give yourself some due dates for accountability," suggests Connecticut-based therapist Kari Ann Greaves, founder of Reflections Counseling and Consulting Services. Seeing everything written down will help you get organized and motivated almost immediately. 

5. Make time for your life outside of the office.

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Just because holiday break is over doesn't mean you have to stop indulging in the things that make you smile. On the contrary, Greaves says that after you're settled back in at work, you should make time for the things you love.

"Once you are feeling organized, take some time to think about what you can do to take care of yourself. Whether it's getting back into a workout routine or re-engaging in reading, this is a time to do some things that you enjoy while taking care of yourself," she explains.

And don't beat yourself up if you can't immediately get back into a routine. Greaves notes that "it can take time to get back into the swing of things" after the lazy holiday season—and that's totally normal!

6. Focus on your growth.

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"As you return to work, strive to focus on the positive of having yet another year of growth and employment rather than [focus on] the negative thought of, 'I have to return to work,'" says Manly. She points to research that suggests that maintaining a positive attitude is the key to actually being positive and getting stuff done.

7. Take breaks throughout the day.

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Pushing yourself to work for 10 hours straight right after a holiday break is a recipe for disaster. Manly says that you should "strive to take a few time-outs as your return to work. Rather than diving in with an 'all-or-nothing' approach, allow a bit of the holiday season to remain by taking an extra 10-minute break or two for a walk, a cup of tea, or a call to a loved one."

8. Reach out to your support system.

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Don't suffer in silence. If you're struggling to get back into a groove after the holidays, reach out to friends and family members who can help you through this tough time. "These are the people that provide us with a sense of social connectedness and belonging," explains Samar. "They add a healthy outlet if we need someone to talk to."

9. Find ways to laugh.

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"Each day, find a 'funny' in your environment," suggests clinical psychologist Steven M. Sultanoff, PhD. "By looking for humor in everyday life, you build resilience and are better equipped to manage 'bad day' events. One of my bosses placed a sign on her door that read, 'I may be disturbed, but I am friendly.'"

10. Only focus on what you can control.

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When you're back at work after the holidays and feeling down, "focus on what you can control," suggests licensed therapist Linda Stiles. "When we focus on things that we can control—our own actions—we can usually lower our stress and feel more empowered."

11. Put things into perspective.

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When you think about things on a micro-level, the dread of going back to work after the holidays drowns out pretty much anything positive in your life. That's why Sultanoff recommends thinking about returning to work "in a large life perspective."

"Whatever 'it' is, tell yourself, 'I will get through this. I have always adjusted to every life challenge.' Perspective reduces stress," he explains.

12. Be kind to yourself.

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There's no use beating yourself up when you're already feeling down. In fact, this will only make things worse. So, when you don't want to work and can't seem to get motivated, Stiles notes that you should "try to give yourself compassion and encouragement." Push those negative thoughts aside and beat the post-holiday blues with positive self-talk.

13. Remind yourself that what you're feeling is normal.

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The thing about post-holiday blues is that they're completely normal. And if you want to start feeling human again once Christmas has come and gone, you need to remind yourself that pretty much everyone is in the same boat you are.

"Accept that it is normal to feel stress about returning to work," says Stiles. "Acknowledge your feelings and remember that others feel this way, too." The sooner you normalize your feelings, the sooner you'll go back to feeling more motivated and less moody!


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Career Magazine: How to Cope When You Dread Returning to Work in January After the Holidays
How to Cope When You Dread Returning to Work in January After the Holidays
When you don't want to work after Christmas break, use these expert-backed tips to overcome your post-holiday dread and beat the back-to-work blues.
Career Magazine
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