Blue Monday? Hug Yourself back to Work – Returning to work after a break

Updated: Mar 31

Hug Yourself back to Work – Returning to work after a break


If you are anything like me, you might feel a little reticent about returning to work after a break. I find that I get a stirring of anxiety about returning to work particularly after the seasonal period. Knowing how to prepare for your return can help you feel more confident and more relaxed about it. As with most things, it is important to reflect and plan. Try to figure out why you are feeling this way. Is it simply holiday blues, have you been furloughed, had a long illness? It can be quite daunting. What can you do to make this transition back to work easier? How can you be mentally ready and stay mentally healthy?


Holiday Blues

Getting back to reality after a break can fill you with dread. Post-holiday blues share many of the same characteristic symptoms of depression, but fortunately this feeling is short-lived. Help this along by taking care of yourself. Readjust your sleeping habits and get back to a healthy diet after all the holiday binging. Remember though to be patient and don’t beat yourself up for feeling the way you do. Take the time you need to find your footing.


Heavy Workload

If the anxiety is about your workload, this is obviously requires more effort to deal with but not dealing with it can lead to burnout or stress. Managing your work may just be about time management, understanding your limits or setting achievable goals. Typically, heavy workloads occur when your responsibilities have increased beyond your role. This is ok if it is for a short time or you feel you can manage but if you can’t then you need to speak up. Ways of coping that are within your control involve:


· Taking regular breaks – prioritise your self-care. Also learn how to say no.

· Split tasks into subtasks - break down significant tasks into manageable steps then prioritise each item.

· Limit multitasking - rather than attempting to undertake all tasks simultaneously, simply switch between projects or tasks. You’ll work more effectively and to a higher standard. Also consider delegation or collaboration.

· Know your limits - improve your self-awareness by evaluating your strengths, then create a realistic work schedule that aligns with your own capabilities and capacity.

· Allocate time to checking emails – this helps you maintain control. Responding on demand is distracting and can be counterproductive.


Tricky colleague

Almost all of us have had to deal with a challenging colleague at some point. Although it is not great, one aspect that is positive is using the experience to develop your conflict resolution skills and learning to overcome adversity. As you learn how to work around their quirks or difficult behaviours, you can focus more on your own work. Try the following techniques to help you stay calm and collected at work:


· Know your trigger points - reflect on which behaviours of theirs you find the most challenging. If possible, remove yourself from the situation or limit your interactions.

· Speak up - confront the situation. Try using "I" language so they better understand your perspective. Using "you" language may make them defensive and escalate the situation e.g. "I feel upset when you talk to me that way." vs. "You always say the wrong things."

· Try to understand their perspective – although you deserve to be treated with respect, getting to know them better, may give you insight that could help you either accept their personality or feel less irritation in their presence.

· Focus on the positives - shift your focus to those you enjoy being around. Also direct your attention to what you love about your job. Being grateful for the good things can make this one challenging part seem smaller.


Extended break

If you have had an extended time of sick leave, it can cause a blow to your confidence about your ability to do your job. Don’t panic, this is all normal. Remember, your employer has a responsibility to support your return with care and compassion. They must inform you about any changes that have taken place in your absence and provide training or a refresher. Additionally, your employer must speak to you about any reasonable work adjustments you may need such as a new chair or desk height.


For your own sake try the following:

· Keep in touch - make sure they have all the information they need to ensure work is allocated sensibly and effectively when you’re back and that you are not taking on more than you should.

· A phased return – this will help get you back into the swing of things and involves you returning to your regular duties and/or hours gradually.

· Don’t overthink it – don’t worry about every aspect of your first day back, and instead focus on taking the small steps you need to get back into work. Also, if you are worried about colleagues talking, your employer should’ve kept your illness confidential, so there’s no need to worry about the whole office knowing your life story. You also have no obligation to tell anyone if they ask. Finally,

· Don’t put too much pressure on yourself - you don’t have to push yourself to do everything straight away. Focus on what you can do, not what you can’t. You will be ok.