Learn to cope with post holiday blues

Whether returning to work after a period of time off, going back to school after the summer, or simply coming home after a short trip abroad, for many September can be a challenging time and it is important to monitor and look after your mental health during this time.

A person may suffer from post holiday blues after returning home from a trip abroad or to a normal routine following a period of time off. The longer the trip or period of time off, the more intense the post holiday blues may be. In general, post holiday blues wear off after time, but can also result in tiredness, loss of appetite, strong feelings of nostalgia, and in some cases, depression. Sometimes having the break away from routine highlights the difficulties and the person becomes more aware of unhappiness in the home or at work and of the need to make changes.

Dr Abbie Lane consultant psychiatrist from the stress clinic based at Saint John of God Hospital, Stillorgan, Dublin, a leading provider of mental health services and treatments in Ireland, offers some advice on coping with reality after the summer holidays: “Try to think positively and focus on the positive aspects of your job when returning to work, such as your colleagues and new projects, return to work with a good attitude which will help make your first day back more positive.

“If you are feeling nostalgic for the summer months and holiday season, it is important to engage in pleasurable activities. Develop a repertoire of autumn leisure interests; join an exercise class, take a language course, volunteer locally or join a club and make plans or set goals for the months ahead.” She continued: “When at home resist sleeping too much and eating unhealthy junk food, which are not good for your long-term wellbeing. Try to keep to a daily routine, even at weekends, and be careful about how much alcohol you consume. If you do feel that there are issues that you need to address at home or work, try to identify a course of action to focus on these over the coming months, remembering that Rome wasn’t built in a day!”

For parents of children going back to school Dr Lane offers the following advice: “If your child is showing signs of upset or worry after the summer, such as tiredness, loss of appetite or sleep problems, be sure to encourage talking about problems and not bottling up feelings. Getting into a good routine is a first step and don’t forget that a good breakfast each morning is important in aiding concentration throughout the day. Being there for them and helping them in those early weeks of return to school is important so that they adjust to the new experience. Setting up a good routine of homework and other activity and regular breaks really helps so that they don’t fall behind in homework, etc, and this can all help prevent unnecessary stress. Support activities your child enjoys or is passionate about, whether art, sport, music or spending time with friends.”

For anyone suffering from a low mood when faced with the realties of life in September, the most important thing is to share your problems with friends, family, or a medical professional. “If you experience a low mood for any period of time, talk to someone. If you are faced with persistent anxiety or low moods, severe sleep or appetite disturbance, a constant feeling of guilt, hopelessness, or unworthiness then seek professional assistance.”

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