Every year without fail I have ‘a case of the Mondays’ when I return to work at the beginning of January. I’ve tried taking longer or shorter vacations, being plugged in over the break, and trying to stay positive but I have a hard time not feeling blue and overwhelmed after the holidays. Is this normal?
Hey there. You are totally normal, and we feel the January blues too. After a few months of dietary debauchery, holiday socializing, and the end-of-the-year project push, feeling more than a little out of sorts is to be expected. It can be difficult to concentrate on TPS Reports when you’re wistfully reminiscing about your far-away family members.
We’re big proponents of having a routine in place, since you avoid the energy-sapping power of constant decision making when your day (or week) is planned for you. Be extra kind to yourself before the holiday season starts, and plan to keep some semblance of a routine in place so your return in January is less jarring. Whether that means sticking to a reasonable sleeping schedule or continuing your exercise classes, decide what will have the biggest benefit for you. Take the extra time to plan ahead before leaving on vacation—nothing will make you feel better than returning to work and finding that Past You left a detailed account of everything important to get done that week.
The holiday season—and vacations in general!—can cause us to have high expectations which don’t always get fulfilled. The routine of regular life stands in stark contrast to those exciting machinations, but you can fight your funk by scheduling something fun your first day back at work. Save your favorite task to do first thing in the morning, plan lunch with a coworker, or treat yourself to a relaxing night at home. Use this as an opportunity to remind yourself that there are plenty of good things in your life year-round.
Consider cleaning your desk and inbox before leaving on vacation in order to enjoy that fresh, everything-in-its-place feeling when you return. We know, boring, but stick with us! Not only will you have an organized and calm workspace to return to, you’ll have a better handle on what work is awaiting your attention with old projects filed away and unnecessary clutter banished. This is especially crucial if you tend to get lots of emails in your line of work, as achieving inbox zero before vacation can be the difference between returning to discover 100 emails versus 1000 emails. We wonder…which inbox will be more overwhelming when you’re already feeling down?
Lastly, don’t be afraid to set boundaries as you settle into your post-holiday routine. Leave your out-of-office message up when you return for a few hours or the whole day to remove unnecessary pressure as you tackle your workload. If possible, ask to schedule any meetings or presentations for a few days after your return to avoid feeling overwhelmed, and make it clear to coworkers you need solitary time without interruptions to power through your to-do list. We bet your office-mates will be more than understanding when you explain you’re trying to ease back into work as gently as possible—they’re likely feeling the same, and you can support each other during this adjustment period.