9 Ways to Beat the Back-to-Work Blues

Clinical psychologist Linda Blair shares nine ways to beat the back-to-work blues

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Everyone dreads that first day back at work after the summer holidays. As soon as you step into the office or sit at your desk, it feels as if you have never been away - except for the vast backlog of emails in your in-tray and the huge number of unfinished tasks begging for your attention. Is there any way to avoid that sinking feeling, and hold on to the benefits of your summer break? Here are nine steps that should help you:

1. Plan to return midweek. Facing a shorter week will feel less daunting.

2. Arrange a treat for the weekend ahead. Knowing that you have something definite to look forward to will keep your spirits up during the transition back to a work?based routine.

3. Decide the date of your next holiday. That way, instead of seeing work stretching ahead interminably, you will know that you’re back for a specific period - say, three months.

4. Take a healthy lunch in with you, plus a large bottle of water. If you don’t plan ahead, it’s all too easy to succumb to sugary, high-calorie snacks that will leave you feeling lethargic and unhappy. Sipping water will prevent you becoming dehydrated, so you will continue to think clearly.

5. Allow time to organise and prepare. The minute you let people know you’re back, you’ll be inundated with requests, and you’ll start off feeling hopelessly behind. Instead, use that first day to sort the backlog and set priorities. If, for example, your first day back is Tuesday, email all your contacts to say that you’ve been on holiday and will be available again from Wednesday.

6. Start by allowing two hours - no more - to sort emails. Nothing kills motivation as fast as an overflowing inbox. That first day, use the first two hours to get rid of all unnecessary emails. Sort the rest by importance, rather than by date received. Then put them in a separate folder, so your inbox is clear.

7. Use the rest of the first morning back to make a list of the things you want to accomplish that week. Write down everything that comes to mind, in any order. Next, re-order the list by priority, cross-referring with your emails file. Do not estimate the time each item will take - you can’t know ahead when you’ll be interrupted or which tasks will become unexpectedly complicated. Stick to a priority list instead, because that way, the important things will always get done.

8. Take a lunch break - on your first day back, and every day from then on. Turn off all screens, and go outside, if possible, for a brisk walk. Then enjoy the healthy lunch you brought in with you.

9. Stop work 10 minutes early - today, and every day from now on. Use that time to check your list of priorities and, as necessary, reorder them and add anything new. Leave the list out ready for the next morning, knowing you’ll start the day organised.

— The Daily Telegraph

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