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Beating the January work blues

The alarm clock rings for the first time in a week, signalling the return to work and the end of the festive season. The party is over.

Your bank balance has a minus sign beside it, the weighing scales dial has a new number on top of it and, somehow, you're even more tired than before the holidays. And so, in a state of despair, you begrudgingly trudge back to the nine-to-five. It's called the back-to-work blues. The bad news is that everyone gets it. The good news is that you can beat it.


Everybody gets the back-to-work blues. Perhaps it's a throwback to the Sunday night anxiety of our schooldays; perhaps it's a process of readjusting to a life where you can't open a bottle of red wine and watch Charlie and the Chocolate Factory at one in the afternoon.

Just remember that you are by no means alone and it doesn't necessarily suggest that you have lost enthusiasm for your job/work colleagues/life in general. "I love my job and even I get the back-to-work blues," admits career coach, Paul Mullan (measurability.ie). "Some people get caught up in the whole I-can't-stand-work thing when the reality is, come February, they're back in the swing of things."


Christmas debt, festive weight gain and the seemingly endless wait for the next pay day all contribute to the January blues. But worrying about it will only compound the symptoms. Instead of indulging in the ritual New Year self flagellation ("I'm so fat/I'm so broke"), take stock of your achievements in 2010. They don't have to be work-related. Perhaps you learnt a new skill, collected money for charity or expanded your social circle. "Write out positive affirmations about yourself and read them when you are feeling anxious or down," suggests life coach Sue Woodall.


The best way to deal with anxiety is to acknowledge what's causing it. "Write a list of everything that is bothering you, whether it is work, home or finance-related," says Woodall. "Prioritise and deprioritise accordingly and score through the items once you deal with them." This may make you feel like you have a small mountain to climb, but ticking off even one small task, whether it's sending a thank-you card or dropping back DVDs, will go some way towards conquering it.


"Think about what you have, not what you don't have," asserts Woodall. Instead of dreading seeing your boss, remember that you'll be reconvening with your favourite work colleagues. Instead of dwelling on the fact that you have to eat beans on toast for the rest of the month; consider it a post-Christmas diet plan. In every problem lies an opportunity.


It's likely you're returning to a heaving inbox and disorganised desk, but instead of diving straight into work, take some time to declutter your work space. Subconsciously you're creating a clean slate for the New Year. A harmonious working environment may not increase productivity, but it will make your working day far more organised. Tidy desk, tidy mind, so goes the old adage.


The return to work can feel anticlimactic because we spend December in a state of anticipation. We let Christmas punctuate our year and focus most of our energy on festive planning in the months leading up to it. Create something else to look forward to. Organise your next holiday -- even if it's just a weekend break in the country -- as soon as possible. It will make you think more positively and give you something to work towards.


We forget how little fresh air and exercise we get over Christmas. The weather this year made it even more difficult to get out into the great outdoors. A brisk walk over lunchtime will release endorphins, clear your mind and motivate you to add exercise to your daily routine. Joining a gym or starting a fitness class will encourage you to lose any weight gained over Christmas.


Studies show that the late nights and lie-ins of the festive season can lead to a phenomenon called "social jet lag". The body clock is out of sync upon your return to work, creating the symptoms of jet lag: fatigue, poor concentration, stress and even depression. Readjust your sleeping patterns immediately by returning to an earlier bedtime.


"Be careful about switching your job in the New Year because, quite often, it's the Christmas effect," explains Mullan.

"Ask what's making you unhappy and causing you to dislike your work and try to change the imbalance. Sometimes you have a poor people manager or a bad boss. In this case, it can be as simple as communicating your issue and trying to resolve it. If there is no solution internally, you have to make the decision whether you are going to put up with it or go onto the job market."


If you have made up your mind to change your job, you might need to change your approach to job-hunting too, says Mullan.

"Most jobseekers react to the job market. They don't attack it. They put all their energy into advertised jobs which everyone is looking at. What people don't realise is that two out of every three jobs are not advertised. It takes a more proactive approach to access those jobs. I call advertised jobs the M50 of the job market because that's where all the traffic is. Spend as much, if not more, of your time trying to access these hidden jobs through networking," he explains.

Sue Woodall, Life Coach, 087 913 9343; Paul Mullan, Career Coach, 087 122 3308, www.measurability.ie