Post-holiday blues worse for Cantabrians

CHARLEY MANN
Last updated 08:53 09/01/2013
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Christchurch workers still dealing with the fallout from the region's earthquakes could find the return to work even more difficult than other employees throughout the country.

Mental Health Foundation chief executive Judi Clements said it was not unusual to experience the back-to-work blues after the Christmas break.

''People are so busy over the festive season that often they don't get a proper chance to recharge their batteries,'' she said.

''Many of us get back to our desks and dive straight into our work without easing ourselves into it. This approach can soon leave us feeling exhausted and stressed.''

However, it could be worse in Christchurch, where people were still dealing with the fallout of the 2010 and 2011 quakes.

Many families had had their last Christmas in their red-zoned homes and others were adjusting to life in new suburbs.

Guy Eaden, of PsychSolutions, said the city was still experiencing a ''hangover'' from the quakes.

''There is quite a pervasive sense of stress that is quite longstanding,'' he said.

''We are compensating in the city for things still, and we will be for a long time.''

Relationships Aotearoa clinical leader Julie Grenfell said it was important to keep connected to family and friends after the excesses of the festive season and two years of ''ongoing'' stress.

It was only seven weeks away from the February 22, 2011, quake anniversary.

''It changed everybody's life,'' she said.

''It did not just affect one or two, it was the whole of Canterbury. It was a significant event.

''We need to hear what people are saying and not disregard it. People all had a different experience.''

Clements said planning a holiday could help to alleviate the back-to-work blues.

''Quite often it gives people an incentive for being back at work. It helps people to focus, think positively and reduce their current feelings of work pressure.''

A health and wellbeing survey by the Southern Cross Health Society, released last month, found 34 per cent of Cantabrians were stressed.

More than 2000 people took part in the survey, which found 50 per cent of participants felt they worked too hard.

For the first few weeks back at work, Cantabrians can expect to experience bad moods, headaches, irritability and even disorientation.

Back-to-work tips from the Mental Health Foundation

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

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- 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 email and break large projects into small steps.

- After-work activities. It's summer; enjoy the daylight-filled evenings and 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.

- The Press

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