Dealing with post-holiday blues?

Dealing with post-holiday blues?

For many, the return to routine after a blissed-out vacation often requires a period of adjustment. But there are ways to make the transition back to the grind smoother


Karen Ann Monsy

Published: Fri 30 Aug 2019, 12:00 AM

Last updated: Sat 7 Sep 2019, 9:16 AM

Forget back-to- school. Let's talk 'back to work'. As UAE residents throng back to the country after a prolonged summer break - July and August being the time most escape to home countries and cooler climes - souvenirs and tasty treats from the motherland are not all they're bringing with them. There's also that distinct drop in dopamine levels that comes with knowing the vacation is done and duty calls.
Dr Keyvan Azimi, general practitioner at HealthBay Polyclinic, says post-holiday blues are "all-too-common", mostly triggered by the prospect of returning to reality. They don't last too long and the symptoms, albeit not definite, can vary from person to person. These tend to range from "the emotional (anxious thoughts, crying, hopelessness) to the physical, such as fatigue," he notes.
Many will even be quick to declare themselves depressed, but Dr Sarah Rasmi, founder of Thrive Wellbeing Centre, believes it is important to be mindful of the way we use mental health terminology. "What happens typically when people return from vacation is a normalisation process," she explains. "When you're on holiday, especially for an extended period of time, you're engaging in all of these exciting activities, connecting with friends and family, spending more time outdoors, having a lot more leisure time on hand. All of that can be lovely, but then you come back to reality. That's more of a normalisation process than depression, but people use the latter term when what they're really talking about is sadness, anxiety and the like."

LET'S TALK TRANSITIONS: (from top to bottom) Dr Keyvan Azimi; Dr Sarah Rasmi; Tazeen Jafri
No official nod
It's part of the reason why post-holiday blues are not classified in the same bracket as other mental conditions. "When we think of any type of disorder, there are a lot of different criteria that need to be met before it warrants a diagnosis," says the psychologist. "One is the duration of symptoms. People who colloquially refer to post-holiday depression usually don't take very long before they adjust to routine again."
For a condition to be diagnosed, it also needs to cause significant impairment, she adds. "If someone came back from a holiday and exhibited a lot of symptoms that lasted, say, six months, symptoms that made it difficult for them to go to work, then we'd be talking about a mental health condition. Otherwise, it's just feeling a bit sad for a while. So, it's important to differentiate between a state that passes and an actual mental health condition."
It's normal to feel some sadness, irritability and lethargy, but if a number of symptoms interfere with your ability to function after two weeks, you might want to seek professional support.

Life hacks
While the scientific community has yet to officially recognise post-vacation blues, you know there's something to be said for the phenomenon when all manner of brands from Montblanc to Springfield start peddling 'back to work' wardrobes. And not without reason.
Professionals suggest several ways to get over the blues; one way is to feed into the self-love culture. Senior PR executive Tazeen Jafri of JLT-based agency Sociate says it's a trick that definitely makes the transition back to work smoother. "We're all kids at heart," says the usually vivacious 28-year-old. "A little self-love - like a new abaya or pair of shoes, in my case - can go a long way to putting you in the right mood."
The Dubai resident, who recently returned from a "magical" trip to the Seychelles with her husband, says that post-holiday blues are hardly an imagined phenomenon. In her case, they stem from waking up to an alarm clock in the morning again. "Having to hear the alarm go off, get out of bed, and get ready to face people in the professional zone after so long in the 'vacay zone'... It definitely takes you a while to shift that mentality," she observes, good-humouredly. And it's why she (wisely) always returns a day before she has to, so she has the time to get into the right frame of mind. "It's far better than reporting to work jetlagged - that would be the worst!"
While advice online can be contradictory, with some adopting a 'don't move till you want to' stance, Dr Keyvan recommends not dragging your feet or delaying the inevitable. "I would definitely suggest getting right to the unpacking and everything else you need to do to get back to routine," he says. "If you keep postponing everything, it'll take that much longer to forget about it."
Dr Sarah, meanwhile, makes a valid point. "We're really good at pursuing leisure activities, connecting with others and doing so many things we know to be important for mental health while on vacation. But when we get back to regular life, we stop doing those things that make us happy. So, for those not feeling pumped about being back, I'd suggest trying to integrate some of that stuff into everyday life: exercise, go out to dinner more; whatever brought you joy on vacation, try and integrate it into life once you're back too."

A deeper problem?
A holiday is supposed to relax and recharge us, so that we can bring our A-game when we get back to work. So, if mere thought of the workplace is triggering strongly negative reactions, Dr Sarah says that speaks to a much deeper problem. "If we're not feeling rested and approaching work with a lot of apprehension, it's important to have a conversation with ourselves about what's making us feel like that. It's one thing to not be looking forward to work, but if it's causing you a sense of dread, it says more about how comfortable or happy you are at your job than about being sad about the end of a vacation."

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