How to transition back to work after the holidays

Going back to work after the holidays can be tough.

On the one hand, all that shopping, gift wrapping, cooking and cleaning can really tire a person out. On the other, the late-night partying, afternoon wake up calls and extra freedom can also take its toll on one’s sleep cycle.

So once that wind down begins, some find it challenging to readjust to their old routines again.

It’s become such a phenomenon that researchers call it “post-holiday syndrome” – a term to describe that general feeling of discomfort people get when they’re unable to adapt to work after the holidays, according to the University of Granada.

READ MORE: The holidays can make mental health problems worse. Here’s how to manage

So what can you do to beat the post-holiday blues?

Story continues below advertisement

Global News spoke with life and career coach Maggie Distasi, and Arturo Gallo of, to talk life after the holidays and what you can do to make sure your transition back to work is a smooth one.

What to expect

For those lucky enough to have time off during the holidays, the whole idea is to disconnect from work, says Gallo. So when it comes to getting back to the grind, the transition can be a slow process.

“We’re not at our peak after the holidays,” Gallo says. “Going back is really a psychological thing sometimes and just thinking of going back to the routine and responsibilities of work can make us really sluggish about it.”

And while the back-to-work transition may not have any effect on some, it could have a greater impact on others – even physically.

According to the University of Granada, tiredness, lack of appetite and concentration, drowsiness or sleeplessness, and muscular aches are just some of the physical effects people can experience. Psychological symptoms include irritability, anxiety, sadness, couldn’t-care-less attitude, and feelings of emptiness.

“It’s a disruption to both your physical and mental routine,” says Distasi. “More people tend to be tired at the end of the day after their first few days back. Their brains are on a different speed, they tend to process things more slowly and have gotten used to not thinking at lightning speed… It’s jarring, overwhelming and it can be a little depressing even.”

Story continues below advertisement

A time to re-evaluate

The time it takes for a person to readjust after the holidays has a lot to do with how they view their work. If they enjoy it, the transition time will be shorter and less painful. However, if you dread your job, it could take you a lot longer.

“A lot of times with people who are in career transitions, one of the reasons they dread coming back is because they’re not happy with the work that they’re coming back to,” says Distasi. “That can cause a lot of anxiety and frustrations even long before the holiday is over.”

In fact, the post-holiday season is a time when many people reevaluate their jobs and careers, says Gallo.

READ MORE: Tips for keeping the peace with family over the holidays

“It’s a time when we ask ourselves if we’re on the right career path and job and if we’re happy at work,” Gallo says. “The first week of January has always seen the highest peak for job searches [at]. It’s people looking forward to the new year – like buying a house or car. It’s their resolutions so it’s pretty normal that people would feel the need for a change.”
Story continues below advertisement

But before you go making any permanent decisions, Gallo advises to take your time and really think your decisions through because it may just be the effects of the post-holiday season.

Back-to-work survival guide

To help you ease back into the swing of things, both Distasi and Gallo offer several tips that will make your transition a little smoother:

  • Take it all in stride: Disconnect from work during the holidays and when you go back to work, take things really slow until you reconnect again. Take small breaks by going for a short walk outside – the fresh air helps.
  • Don’t single yourself out: Remember that everyone else is in the same boat as you, so don’t think you’re the only one who feels overwhelmed.
  • Prepare before the holidays: If it isn’t too much to handle, try to work ahead before taking time off. That way, when you come back to work, you have less on your plate and feel less stressed.
  • Set goals and realistic expectations: If you didn’t accomplish something throughout the previous year, set it as a goal for the year ahead. Don’t get discouraged and keep pushing yourself when it comes to career development.
  • Don’t take on too much: Be realistic on how much you can handle.
  • Speak up: If someone approaches you with a project you’re not ready for, be honest with them and let them know if you feel that you can handle it at that moment. If not, ask them to discuss this at a later time and follow through.
  • Admit when you’re not happy: If your feelings of unhappiness at work persist, be honest with yourself. That awareness will create change and start to reveal new insights and choices over time.
  • Ask for help: Don’t be afraid to approach someone if you feel you’re drowning. This could mean talking with your manager and coming up with a plan, or seeking guidance from a career specialist or coach.

Sponsored content