Friday 21 October 2016

How to cope with the post-holiday blues

Has reminiscing about the sand in your toes and wind in your hair got you feeling down? Our reporter gets expert advice on how to hang on to that holiday feeling at home

Published 03/08/2016 | 02:30

Desk-bound misery: Lena Dunham as Hannah in ‘Girls’
Desk-bound misery: Lena Dunham as Hannah in ‘Girls’

As office workers across the country battle the post-bank holiday fear today, health experts here have warned against turning to caffeine - among other things - to ease the pain.

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More than half of Irish workers have confessed to returning from a break more dejected than when they left. And the dread of returning to your desk gets worse the longer you're away, according to research.

"Post-holiday blues is absolutely a very real issue for a lot of people," says psychologist Joan Long of Cuanín Clinic in Cork.

"It's a bit like the post-wedding blues. You spend so long looking forward to getting away, then it's all over."

Lethargy and lack of appetite are just two signs you could be suffering from the medically recognised mood shift sometimes also known as 'post-holiday depression'.

But you don't have to splash out on another sun-soaked holiday - like over a fifth of all sufferers - to beat the blues.

Here, our experts reveal how to hang on to that holiday feeling at home.


As the last of the piña coladas leave your system, expect to feel nauseous, sluggish, not hungry, or all three. The first step to overcoming the post-holiday blues is accepting you've got them, according to Joan.

"Holidays can be an anti-climactic thing for a lot people," she tells. "People put so much into the holiday, they feel like they have nothing left, either emotionally, physically or financially, after they come back. Recognise the symptoms and have a plan - otherwise you will go downhill rapidly."



Even the dream holiday can quickly become a nightmare when you're fighting jet lag. Back on terra firma, sticking to your usual bedtime is the secret to combating the dreaded condition - even if you're struggling to nod off.

"Try to get back into your own bedtime routine as soon as you get home," advises Susan O'Dwyer, healthcare development manager at Boots Ireland. "And get plenty of daylight during the day. Sleeping tablets should only be used as a last resort as they can lead to dependency."


Coming home to an empty fridge is a recipe for disaster, warns weight management expert Katie O'Shea of Remember to stock up on healthy homemade meals before you jet off to help beat the post-holiday blues - and bloat.

"Often we're so focused into getting into shape before our holidays, that we neglect to plan a healthy eating regime for when we get home," she says. "Get organised by filling the freezer with casseroles and curries you can pop in the microwave when you're too jet-lagged to cook."


Booking your next holiday as soon as you get home is traditionally thought to stave off the post-escape slump. But it can feed into a vicious cycle of holiday-related elation and deflation, cautions motivational speaker Hannah Lilly.

"I used to always book my holiday for September in January so I could pay it off," she recalls. "You spend the whole eight months before that saying, 'Thank God I've got my holidays to look forward to!' Instead of waiting for something to make life better, let's start making life better now so we actually live day to day."


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Resist the urge to tank up on coffee to get through your first day back at work. Frequenting the water cooler instead is the key to hanging onto that post-holiday glow, according to Katie.

"High temperatures and increased alcohol intake often leads to dehydration on holidays," she continues. "Even mild dehydration - a 1-2pc loss in body weight - can impair the ability to concentrate, slow our digestive systems and dull our skin.

"Aim to drink at least two litres of water every day after your holidays and cut back on caffeine and fizzy drinks."


Soften the blow of returning to reality by jetting back home just before the weekend. "If you go straight back into work to pick up on two weeks' work that hasn't been handed over to someone else, you're going to undo all the benefits of recharging your batteries on holiday," explains psychologist Joan.

"Try to come back on Friday so it's not all doom and gloom at the thought of going back to work the next morning. Or take a half-day the following Friday so the week doesn't feel so long."


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You might not be able to holiday every day, but you can make every day a holiday as you battle the blues.

Learning a foreign language, cooking exotic foods or taking up a new sport are just some of the ways to harness the fun of your holiday at home.

"Why not continue some of the activities you enjoyed while you were away after you come home?" suggests health and wellness coach Jennifer O'Callaghan of

"Eating healthy food such as seafood, trying a new activity like surfing, or simply spending more time outdoors can all help prolong that holiday feeling."


Reminiscing on your getaway - within reason - is sure to help turn that frown upside down when the dishes start to pile up again. Try sticking a holiday snap on the fridge to keep the happy hormones pumping, says Hannah, whose 'Joy Project' begins on August 15 on Facebook.

"Gratitude is the quickest way to feel good now," she reckons. "Looking back on a holiday photo or playing your holiday song will immediately make you feel better. When you're back in work and feeling rubbish, just think, 'I was in Portugal last week - life isn't so bad.'"


With next summer a mere dot on the horizon, planning a free day out will help keep PHB at bay as you replenish the piggy bank, assures Joan.

"Often people can be at a bit of a loss when they come home from holidays," she admits. "There can be a sense that all they're heading into now is getting the school uniforms. What I would always say is to have something planned for the following weekend. It doesn't have to cost a lot of money - something as simple as going for a walk will give you something to look forward to."


Returning to rainy Ireland is bound to leave even the sunniest jet-setter feeling blue. If the fog refuses to lift long after your tan has faded however, it could be a sign of deeper discontent, and that your next trip should be to the doctor's office.

"Holidays are a great way to relax," says pharmacist Susan. "So it's normal to feel a bit down after you come home. The post-holiday blues usually pass within a few days. But if they don't, see your doctor for further advice and support."

Irish Independent

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