‘Returning-to-work-dread’ can be a real thing for many of us. Perhaps your dread is due to having to change your routine, having a stressful job, or having to work with difficult people or situations. Perhaps it’s your work location that’s the stressor. Or perhaps your holiday wasn’t sufficient enough of a break to allow you to fully replenish your energy and resilience levels. Here are some great tips to help beat the back-to-work blues…
Manage your energy wisely
A recent AUT ‘Wellbeing@Work’ study showed that job burnout rates have skyrocketed since covid, spiking in 2021 up to a 35% increase of people requiring medical assistance. That’s just the recorded incidents, so you can imagine there were probably many more cases where people were just ‘sucking it up’ and ‘soldiering on.’
AUT’s professor of human resource management Dr Jarrod Haar says people could be likened to the battery of their smartphones, and the past few years have drained the charge for many. Now, one in five people have a blinking battery light, waiting to be recharged.
Dr Harr goes on to say, “So, for those coming back from a Christmas break, it’s important to realise that launching yourself into a heavy start to the year with work is like launching a bunch of apps on your phone. It will drain things faster.”
I learned the hard way that relying on caffeine and sugar to give me a boost just accelerated my burnout. That's because they trick your body into thinking it has more energy than it actually does and they can quickly lead to energy deficit. I prefer to do energy boosting exercises like tracing my Central and Governing meridians, which gives me a more sustained energy boost without any nasty side effects. Check out Donna Eden's Youtube videos for pointers on how to do these exercises.
Humans don't come with an LED that tells us when we need to recharge, so we need to be aware of the signs our body is running low on energy so we can maintain a healthy balance.
The best way to maintain balance is to make it your priority. Start by asking yourself how you define balance and self-care. Then rank your self-care practices in order of importance and work as many as you can into your routine.
Balance also means doing your absolute best to cut out things that don’t serve you. For example, trying to be all things to everyone and trying to please everybody. Bad bosses exist and they can make you miserable and exhausted if you don’t have good boundaries and know how to defend those boundaries.
I’ve had bad bosses in the past who kept me so busy I didn’t even have time to go for a pee break, let alone eat or drink enough, and my body paid the price for it. No job (regardless of how much it pays) is worth sacrificing your health and wellbeing for.
The new me now has much better boundaries and makes keeping hydrated, eating healthy and getting quality sleep a priority. Some days a 10 minute lie down with my eyes closed is all that’s needed to recalibrate my eyes, brain and nervous system. I highly recommend this, especially for women who have issues with their hormonal balance.
Make sure you pace yourself throughout the day and take regular breaks. Your breaks will be more energising if you disconnect from technology and spend time in nature and consciously connecting with nature and Mother Earth. Use your lunchtime to get out of the office for some fresh air, even if it’s just for a walk around the block.
Put aside a bit of time each day to do something for yourself. Make use of longer evenings and do some pottering around the garden, take a walk, go to the beach or meet up with friends and family to give yourself a sense of still being on holiday. My favourite 'me' time is an epson salt bath in the evenings, which is like a magical re-set button.
Make an effort to be more social. Join an in-person social group like a singing group, walking group, or hobby club.
Ease back into it
Slow and steady wins the race. If you can, start off everyday with those tasks you can accomplish the easiest and work yourself into the more challenging tasks. You could also take a day off in the first week or two after a break to make the transition easier.
Get yourself organised the day or evening before going back to avoid a stressful morning. Make sure you know where everything is that you need so you can breeze into work.
There’s nothing worse than coming back to hundreds of emails to sort through. Instead of trying to sort through them all at once and feeling overwhelmed, do it in small chunks over several days, prioritising the important ones first.
I love ticking things off a list, don’t you? Think about what you want to achieve at work and write your goals for the day, week, month and year down so you have something to refer to and see what you can accomplish. Give yourself goal-appropriate rewards when you achieve those targets. You could even start planning your next holiday to give you something to look forward to. It could be a weekend away or something longer.
Failing is part of living
Don’t punish yourself if you don’t achieve your goals. You will less likely to become sick if you remember to give yourself permission to fail. That’s because your body doesn't like hearing “failure is not an option.” Treat every failure as a necessary and important part of success, learning and life.
Fixating on failure can kill your positivity, enthusiasm, passion and creativity and that negative vibe can easily spread throughout the workplace, changing the atmosphere into one of gloom. Take as many positives as you can from the failure and use them to move forward.
I'm a recovering perfectionist, so I recognise just how much perfectionism saps your energy and steals your satisfaction of life. It also blocks the flow of energy and creativity and can prevent you from achieving your goals. Not being perfect is not the same as failing. It just means that you are human. Set you intention each day to do your best and be satisfied with that.
Protecting yourself from toxic people can be a challenge when you work in an office with them. If you can't move your work station away from them there are other ways you can block their negative energy. Turn your desk so they aren't in your line of sight. Put up a barrier between you and them like a plant, crystal, room divider, etc. Remember that you can set your intention to use your biofield as a a protective atmosphere around yourself so you can bounce their toxic energy back to them.
Sick building syndrome is a very real threat to human health and wellbeing. Make sure you are not sitting too close to the air conditioner, wifi or electronic devices for too long. Long exposure to junk lighting from fluros and computer screens can make you ill because of their frequency which can disrupt hormone production. Buildings with metal frames and concrete floors are more likely to be sick buildings, so be aware and make sure you ground yourself well when you get home.
Sometimes we dread returning to work because it's so much less engaging than our personal lives. Having a sense of purpose, engaging tasks, a supportive environment, growth opportunities, and recognition are all factors that can contribute to your excitement to come to work every day.
Keeping a journal might seem a bit naff, but that doesn't change the fact that they are an excellent tool for helping us keep healthy and happy. I journal every night before bed and write down what I've noticed about my health and wellbeing. I also record what I'm most grateful for and that allows me to go to sleep happy and look forward to the day ahead.
It’s normal to not feel great all the time. If you feel you need help call LIFELINE: 0800 543 354 or 09 5222 999 within Auckland (available 24/7)