I asked another psychologist who’d recently returned from a Hawaiian holiday what she practices when trying to readjust to reality. Here are our combined thoughts and tips:
– Remind yourself it’s normal to feel out of sorts when holidays end. In fact the longer the time off, the longer it takes to transition back. Somehow the fact that many people struggle makes it less a personal fight than a common issue.
– Be gentle and kind with yourself in those first few days back at work, allowing the flatness of mood to be there without getting angry at yourself for the reaction you’re having.
– A gradual transition back to work can be helpful if possible, so that it feels less overwhelming.
– Say no to things so you have time to catch up on the in-tray, emails and urgent requests.
– Have some nice things to look forward to including planning your next holiday as we all need stakes in the ground to head towards.
– Reflect on whether there are some things about holiday that you can build into everyday life (perhaps not the overindulgence with food and wine) but going to the beach after work.
– Realise that it gets better – after a couple of days the routines start to kick in again and that initial shock subsides.
Interestingly, research has shown the opposite of the commonsense view that we are happier when we are at home relaxing. In his book Flow, Mihaly Csikszentmihaly makes the point that we need to establish a balance between the skills we have and the challenges we face to fully enjoy life. Flow is the state of intense absorption and involvement with the present moment when this balance happens. People more often report this state of flow at work.
Reframing work into an opportunity to learn what flows for you to achieve greater satisfaction is recommended by Sonya Lyubomirksy in her book, The how of happiness.
You’ll know you’re in flow when you’re totally immersed in what you’re doing, it is both challenging and engrossing and you feel completely unself-conscious.