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Post holiday depression – is it real?

Have you ever come back from your holiday with your next one already planned or even booked? Or perhaps your first phone call on your return is to your travel agent?

The promise of a future holiday can be so enticing; a way to get over feeling down, moody, sad, tired and depressed or how you hate your job when returning home to the normal routine after a vacation. These feelings are a well talked about theory, something we’ve all experienced and even has a name – ‘post holiday depression’(PHD), the vacation blues or the post travel blues.

Googling this phenomenon, one finds ‘7 ways to avoid post holiday depression such as get a hobby’, ‘Post often on social media’ or provides ways on ‘how to leave your daily hell’. Most sites suggest the way to deal with the post holiday blues is by distraction – by giving yourself something to look forward to, hence why we might make that call to the travel agent before the suitcase is even unpacked. While these websites suggest ways to make the blues go away, none ask the question: why do so many get depressed after a holiday in the first place? Surely the return from a holiday would be a time of enthusiasm and feeling energised?

The current treatment of post holiday depression is to accept it as a fact of life of having vacations in the first place; that this is indeed ‘normal’ and some even say is proof of having had a great holiday and so what is there to complain about – this is the ‘work hard, party hard’ theory.

Others view holidays as a way to deal with the monotony of their work, which begs the question, what makes us see work as hard, not to be enjoyed, something we do just for money or need to recover from?

Often there is a drive leading up to the holiday to get things done prior to hopping on that plane or boat. Sometimes we leave a trail of chaos behind as we knock off at 5pm, only to walk straight back into it on our return. After just one day, we can be back into this momentum that we were attempting to escape from in the first place. Or we might go to another extreme and tie up every loose end, leaving a spotless desk behind and use the holiday as a reward to ourselves, leaving one in a never-ending merry-go-round cycle of work, reward, work, reward.

Such an unsatisfactory normal lifestyle routine sets us up to feel the post vacation blues. Similar emotions are also felt after the weekend (known as Monday-itis) or after days off work for the shift-workers.

The holiday becomes the way to press the pause button on everyday life. Many people want their problems to go away on vacation, but even though the scenery has changed, our problems come with us no matter where we go; our body is where our issues are stored and we don’t leave our body behind.

Have we made life at work so boring that we are unhappy and unfulfilled and need a way to escape it? What is driving our incessant need to escape?

A common solution to beating the holiday blues is to plan another getaway to give ourselves something to look forward to. But is always looking forward to some future event really the solution or does it just keep us on the roller coaster of work-work-work-vacation-work-work-work-vacation to so-called ease the pain of it all?

Isn’t it possible, if not probable there is something in our daily lives we often don’t want to see that is making us want to escape?

What if suffering post holiday blues is the flashing light that tells us how we are working and living or doing life before the vacation needs an overhaul?

What then is the antidote to PHD?

If we were to consider it is an inconsistency, a lack of joy and a definitive lack of purpose in the way we live and work each day that causes the vacation blues, then we have a definite something to address these blues.

What if instead of working on the treadmill, seeing work as a chore, or perhaps a penance, we introduced a real sense of purpose to our work life? When working with purpose, the restlessness, tedium or tension we often feel at work is less likely to be present.

And so what does working with purpose mean?

In asking the question – “why do I work?” – the answer will often have some element of financial reward in it, which is completely reasonable as we all need money to live. But there is much more to that question than meets the eye. Regardless of the role, whether it be as a cleaner or a brain surgeon, there is purpose in every role. Loving your job and knowing how it literally changes the lives of people around you need not be something reserved for celebrities or travel writers!

Imagine an office cleaner who comes in at night, sees no one, and just clears away the mess from the day before. Can someone in that role feel a sense of real purpose? Absolutely! In this role the person has not only the responsibility for creating a clean environment, but they can also leave a very energetically clear space for the workers who will arrive the next morning. Imagine for a moment a cleaner who comes to work angry and resentful. What space will be left behind from their cleaning, and what will that be like for the people who come to the office the next day? Imagine a cleaner who knows they are not just cleaning, but they are ‘clearers of space’. They know the purpose of their role is to leave a clear space for the next day. They know how they leave the space will, without question, contribute to those who come to work the next day. They know they are part of a bigger plan where we are all connected.

Your job is never just about the physical job in front of you.

There is always a much greater purpose to what and how you work.

The quality in which you work, which comes from being connected to your essence, the clarity that you bring, and simply the openness you have to understanding that what you do is much more than the physical outputs, will change everything about how you feel about work and how you feel when you are there.

Be willing to see the role you have – and more importantly how you are in that role – as important.

  • Purpose includes being open to the understanding that you are more than what you do. Understand that the project you work on is simply something you ‘do’, it is not ‘who’ you are. Be open to the fact that it is the quality in which you work, and not only the outputs you deliver, that is vital.

  • Purpose includes committing to your work. But how, when you hate your job?!! Through understanding there is a bigger picture of energy at play and choosing a commitment to yourself and your quality first, you will then notice how that affects how you approach your work.

  • Purpose includes finding an appreciation of ourselves in the job we do, no matter how small or insignificant that might be at first. When you commit to a quality in how you work and you bring that quality to the role, knowing you are contributing to the all, there is much to be appreciated.

  • Purpose requires self-care at work as a priority. It is important to see value in taking breaks or eating well at work, given how important you are.

But life isn’t only about what happens at work; we need to live with purpose too. Life – and that includes the times we are at work of course – is better when we are connected and engaged. Life might feel out of our control, yet through living connected to the quality of ourselves we get to know ourselves by these qualities first, rather than through our actions. Living in connection, we get the feeling we actually are able to make changes.

You may well find that living and working with purpose is the paradise you were seeking.

Holidays then offer supportiveness and restorative opportunities. They are a fabulous time to reconnect with our selves – just don’t leave reconnecting only for holidays, it is for daily life! – our friends, family, or to meet new people. Holidays are also a time to rejuvenate, nurture and restore health.

Connecting with people – new friends and old – in a new place and experiencing a different environment brings potential for a fresh perspective and deepening in relationships. This deepening in relationships is lasting and can be the true ‘holiday memento’ that we need.

Simply put, we can use holidays to deeply enjoy ourselves and to celebrate each other – in fact we use all of life for these things – and we vacation in a way that doesn’t leave us depleted on return.

Life can be lived simply and evenly and with great purpose, without the peaks and troughs that so often are experienced where we work hard and play hard and need relief from the disconnection. It is possible for work to feel enjoyable and meaningful without there being a need to escape it, and post holiday depression will then be a thing of the past.


Filed under

LifestyleWork stressCareerExhaustionWork life balanceBurn-outReturning to work

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