Beat the back-to-work blues

LIAM HYSLOP
Last updated 15:19 06/01/2014

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Today is the most depressing day of the year.

That's the bleak conclusion reached by a British social media study that found the first Monday back at work after the festive season is the most miserable.

The Upbeat Barometer analysed 2,205,298 British January tweets over the past three years, highlighting negative language and phrases that indicated mood plummeted in the month.

It measured "sentiment and happiness", providing a daily unique score between 0 and 100 to deliver a "happiness index'"of Britain's mood.

For the past three years the first Monday back at work after Christmas-New Year consistently scored the lowest score for the year - an average of 49.

The response could be attributed to the fact Britons go back to work in the middle of winter.

But Mental Health Foundation chief executive Judi Clements said the back-to-work blues also happened in New Zealand and people should ease their way back into their work.

"Too many of us dive straight back into work instead of gently easing ourselves back into the swing of things," she said.

"We feel sad that our holiday is over and don't take the time to adjust to different sleeping and eating patterns that often change over the holidays.

"When we do this, we quickly start to feel exhausted, stressed, and depressed."

Back-to-work blues - also known as Blue Monday - can come in many forms, including feeling disorientated and having a go-slow attitude, losing motivation for work, or feeling resentful about having to return, she said.

On top of that, many people felt irritable, found themselves in a bad mood, or even suffered headaches or other physical manifestations of stress.

Clements offered other tips to avoid the blues, including after-work activities, planning the next big holiday and organising your work for the year.

One person who was not experiencing the blues was Jane Gilkison.

She returned to the Auckland corporate office world today, after a few weeks holidaying in Wellington and Tauranga, and was relishing being back at work.

"It's actually been good," she said.

"Everyone is back in and in a reasonably good mood talking about what they did over the break."

She did find it hard to get back into her work routine, with the 5am alarm coming as a surprise.

"That's probably the hardest bit, I'd actually forgotten what my alarm sounded like this morning," Gilkison said.

"It took me about 30 seconds to realise I wasn't dreaming . . . but it's not too bad."

Although it was hard being inside [at work] during the sunny days, there was still a lot to look forward to in the warm summer evenings, she said.

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"Obviously it would be nicer to still be at the beach but also it means when you finish work for the day there is still a bit of daylight, and hopefully I will get along and watch the tennis and that kind of thing."

BEAT THE BLUES

- Take the first two days slowly: Reply to emails, catch up on phone calls, and then head home for some R&R. Plunging straight back into the thick of things will only increase your stress levels.

- Create a harmonious work environment: Organise your workspace, have something personal that you like, or photos of friends and family on your desk. Set a favourite picture as your screen saver.

- Think about your personal growth: Do you have any skills that you would like to develop further? Why not enrol in a learning course this year? It doesn't have to be work related!

- Review your job: Is it still fulfilling your needs and does it still challenge you? Ask your manager for a job review. Speak about your wants and needs for the role. Discuss any areas of work you are finding difficult.

- Take time out: Make sure you have at least 15 minutes a day to yourself. Go for a short walk or read a bit of a good book.

- Get organised: Get up earlier so you don't have to rush, set aside time for processing emails, break large projects into small steps.

- After-work activities: It's summer, so enjoy the light-filled evenings, arrange sporting or social activities with friends and family so you have something to look forward to after work or at weekends.

- Look after yourself: Get more sleep, take part in more physical activity and eat better this year. It will help you to think more clearly and to feel less stressed and more relaxed.

- Fairfax Media

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