Updated 06 January 2016

Beat the back-to-work blues

It's back to work for most of us and it's quite a shock to the system.


Holiday time is fun time - for most people anyway. This is the time you get to do all those things you never have time for during the year - and that does not include cleaning the house or painting the garage.

Reading, swimming, sleeping late, getting a tan, spending time with friends, eating too much and shopping until the credit card buckles. But all good things come to an end.

It doesn't take much to see why the thought of returning to work is not too enticing. Now you're back at the salt mine with your difficult boss and the office dragon at the reception desk.

No wonder the queues at the lottery ticket counters are so long this time of the year. Everyone fantasises about telling the boss and the bank manager where to get off.

But for the other millions of us unfortunate souls it is back to the grindstone. What can one do to make this transition less grinding and less stressful? Here are some ideas.

  • It helps to accept that feeling this way means you had a really good holiday. It is often the less pleasant things in life which, by contrast, make the pleasant things as pleasant as they are. What would chocolate cake have been without spinach lurking in the background?
  • Find ways to destress - exercise, go for a massage, join a walking club, or join the gym.
  • Remember that most of us need to work to earn a living. By working we also make a contribution to society, the economy and the state coffers. If a job was all fun and games, you would be paying them, not the other way round. 
  • Organise two after-hours sporting or social activities to which you can look forward in the first week back at work. 
  • When returning to work, know already when next you will take leave. Even if it is months away, it is something on which you can focus, when the going gets tough. An athlete approaches a 10-km race differently to what he/she would a marathon. 
  • Refocus on the reasons why you took this job. Is it still fulfilling your needs and expectations? Is it challenging? Or is it merely paying the bond and the grocery bills? 
  • Do you have a boss who reminds you of Attilla the Hun, but without the charm? This could make the prospect of returning to work very unpleasant. A small consolation is that horrible people are seldom happy. A person who sees the workplace as a substitute for a boxing ring does not usually have an adoring spouse and three well-adjusted children. 
  • Remember that you are not an indentured slave. All work contracts have a heading called "Notice Period". Your boss does not own you. (All right - I know that you owe on the house and the car, but there are other jobs out there if you really are desperate to leave.) 
  • Make it a resolution to learn to say no. Most bosses follow the camel principle - they will load you up until you sink onto your knees in the sand. 
  • Get an ally at work. A conspiratorial wink in solidarity at a difficult time can do wonders for you.

And remember, after all, it's only a job. 

(Susan Erasmus, Health24, updated January 2011)


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