Monday, September 20

“Post-pandemial” post-holiday stress: how to alleviate the face-to-face return to work


Many people experience the call post-pandemial post-vacation stress: a feeling of lack of energy, demotivation or sadness when having to return to work after the holidays. It is the so-called post-vacation syndrome, a problem that this year is exacerbated by the return -in many cases- to face-to-face work.

Do we have the post-pandemial post-vacation syndrome?

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It is not recognized as a disease: it does not appear in manuals or official classifications of mental disorders. Therefore, many experts consider that calling it “syndrome” is wrong, part of a tendency to pathologize (and even to medicalize) certain difficulties. They prefer to talk about stress or depression post-vacation.

The fact is that, beyond the denominations, this problem due to the change of routines exists. And its symptoms – both physical and psychological – give rise to many medical and psychological consultations At this time of year.

How post-vacation stress manifests itself

Some of the physical symptoms they are: tiredness, drowsiness, lack of appetite, rapid heartbeat, muscle aches, stomach discomfort and insomnia. The psychologicalOn the other hand, they include lack of interest, indifference, nervousness, restlessness, irritability and sadness.

The statistics point out that, in general, two out of every five people suffer from this problem every time they return to work. A figure that coincides with the results of a recent survey, according to which almost 40% of the population feels anxiety about having to return to face-to-face activity.

Of the 1,005 people surveyed by the application Ekilu -specialized in food and well-being- 78% of their employer companies require them to return to work in person, no choice. This generates that, to the usual anxiety risk factors at this time, some more are added.

On the one hand, there are concerns related to the necessary care to avoid COVID-19 infections (distance, use of masks, etc.). On the other hand, the possible difficulties in reconcile work and family life, or to maintain a good quality of food when having to return to the office.

People most likely to have a bad time after the holidays

Who is more likely to have this “syndrome”? On the one hand, the risk depends above all on three variables, as pointed out by Juan García Bouza, psychologist of the Aesthesis Center, based in Madrid: the characteristics of the work environment, the personality of the worker and the way in which he manages the transition from one stage to the other.

Regarding the work environment, it is clear that the people who are most at risk of suffering from post-vacation depression are the most dissatisfied or disenchanted with their jobs, those who suffer some type of workplace harassment or those who have problems of exhaustion or “burnout”.

With regard to personal traits, this problem tends to affect people more under 45 years, many of whom are raising their children and also have high expectations for their performance and future employment.

Another trait of the most exposed people – points out a document from the Spanish Society of Family and Community Medicine (SemFYC) – is that they “perform a abrupt break in the holiday rhythm“That is, they return from a trip very shortly before (often the day before) their return to work.

What to do to avoid post-pandemial post-vacation syndrome?

Here are some tips from specialists.

1. Have a period of adaptation

SemFYC highlights the need to “plan at least two days from the end of the holiday as a period of adaptation to the incorporation to work. “The ideal in those days is to have returned from the place where you have traveled and be back home.

In addition to returning to your usual environment, you should try to return – gradually – to going to bed and getting up during the normal hours of work days. And also limit naps. The goal is that the differences are not so noticeable from one day to the next.

2. Start small

When you return to work, it is advisable to give yourself time to get into the routine without overloading yourself with tasks or efforts. If possible, it is advisable not to return to work on a Monday: if you start on a Wednesday or Thursday, the first week will be “shorter“. The weekend will come soon to take a break.

The same happens with the activities of work. The psychologist Júlia Pascual recommends “planning realistic goals and starting small.” That way, you avoid the tendency to overload yourself with tasks or get into a hectic pace right after you return from vacation.

3. Give importance to the positive

It is easy for negative aspects to cloud your eyes and prevent you from seeing the bright side of things. Going back to work means having a job, having enjoyed vacations, in many cases having traveled, having a family, etc. This also helps to avoid a permanent attitude of complaint and discomfort, which only emphasizes harmful feelings.

“Look at the good things” and “be grateful for what you have”, recommends the psychologist Mireia Navarro Vera, director of the center The Teu Espai, based in Santa Coloma de Gramanet, Barcelona. This helps to see your own situation in perspective and more clearly.

On the other hand, reuniting with colleagues, taking on new professional challenges, etc. can also be positive. In the words of Juan García Bouza, “seeking motivation in returning to the work routine will make it more bearable”.

4. Keep making rewarding plans

Returning to work does not mean that outings or leisure activities can no longer be planned until the next vacation. Going out for a drink on a terrace, dining out or just going for a walk are activities that can also be considered on work days.

And, of course, small ones can also be planned Weekend trips. In fact, if the work routine allows these moments of relaxation, the contrast between work and vacation time will be less not only now but also in the future, year after year.

5. Play sports

Renewed energies during the holidays can be the necessary incentive to resume – or increase – physical exercise. Among other benefits, sport improves mood and helps to have a more pleasant rest. In the same sense, it can also be useful to sign up for a course or take on a new activity.

6. Accept negative feelings and remember that they will pass

García Bouza recommends “not exaggerating, but not fleeing from unpleasant emotions”. In any case, the healthiest thing is to accept the normal of feel some pity due to the fact that the rest period has ended and work has been resumed.

“The important thing – adds the psychologist – is manage those sensations appropriately, assess them objectively, and try to mitigate negative emotions with positive stimuli and a progressive adaptation to change “.

In the same sense, Mireia Navarro Vera recalls that post-vacation syndrome usually lasts a week or two: “Then you will be 100% and without realizing it the holidays will return again.”

If after those first two weeks the symptoms persist, then it may be necessary to seek professional help, because perhaps there is a deeper and more important problem than the mere return to work. In that case, consultation with a psychologist can be of great help.

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