Time off from work can give you the well-needed opportunity to escape from the usual day-to-day stresses. These daily stresses are usually the cause for overarching mental health issues anyway. Once these daily stressors are put on pause, for instance during a vacation, it’s harder for individuals to feel accepting of the stressors when they do return to work.
Nicky Lidbetter, CEO of Anxiety UK notes that “The effects of anxiety and stress are compounded by a high level of worry and ‘catastrophizing’ situations.” Individuals who tend to fear the worst possible outcome in a scenario, such as falling behind at work or losing their job, will engage in catastrophic thinking. This is a serious mental hurdle for those who engage in this type of thinking. It is often good to talk to someone about these feelings.
Human Doing vs Human Being
Some people have such a hard time taking time off work because they equate their value as human beings with the work they do. People who think like this usually find themselves obsessing about work even when they do take time off.
As a society, productivity has become so revered that these individuals become so entrenched in the means of production that who they are is also what they do. If you are like this, time off from work is something you surely need. You cannot negate certain aspects of your existence just to be a part of the means of production. If that is what you find yourself doing, then you need to think about what you can do to improve and maintain your mental and physical well-being outside of work. You also need to consider that your level of self-esteem needs to be addressed.
Think about how you currently find contentment and satisfaction in your daily life. If all of the things that bring you comfort and pleasure are external, then you need to reevaluate your approach. If your happiness depends on things like money, sex, alcohol, drugs, and expensive possessions, then you will constantly be chasing those things in order to be validated.
The better approach is to figure out what brings you complete inner contentment. Think about, write down, and schedule the things in your life that improve your attitude and put you in a good mood.
The Effects of Anxiety in the Workplace
Naturally, if you find your job stressful, returning to work will be difficult for you, especially after a vacation. Crowe explains, ”It can be hard for someone who doesn’t enjoy their work or finds that they have low motivation to get a positive perspective on going back to work.” She explains that it makes the situation difficult for people with anxiety since “anxiety is often triggered by our negative thoughts and how we perceive an outcome or a situation.”
In the workplace, bullying or difficult working relationships can create stress and cause anxiety when the time comes to go back to work and face colleagues.
How to Deal With Back-to-Work Anxiety
There are a few steps you can take to make sure you are preparing yourself to achieve the best results when you return to work, such as strategically planning your re-entry and reducing your work pile-up. Some approaches are general and anyone can do them, but there are other suggestions that you can personalize to suit your own situation.
Getting organized before you take your vacation in the first place is the most ideal approach. If you have a checklist of everything to do before you go, and you complete it, that leaves you with all the mental space you need to fully enjoy your break without dreading what is waiting for you when you return. You can even go as far as thinking about the possible glitches that may occur when you return and have solutions ready.
Talk to your boss or supervisor if necessary and ask about how your typical tasks will be handled in your absence. This can give you the opportunity to prioritize and delegate tasks in the most ideal way for you. It can give you peace of mind when you are away that what absolutely needs to be done is getting done and when you return you already know what to anticipate.
You can get some input from your supervisor before you leave. You put systems in place together to handle your usual workload and then systems to deal with any possible emergencies. If your supervisor is reasonable and cooperative, then they can be a helpful resource for you.
To Email or Not to Email During Your Vacation
The dilemma of having urgent communication to respond to during your vacation is not an easily resolved one. There might not actually be a right answer to the question of whether or not you should respond to your emails while on break. You are the most qualified person to make the decision.
Think about why you chose your particular profession in the first place. Do you enjoy your role enough that answering an email or two on your vacation does not bother you at all? Is it love for your role that makes your vacation necessary because you got too immersed and neglected self-care for too long? Or does the thought of answering emails on your vacation make you anxious?
These are important factors to consider. But when it comes to the solution, maybe setting up autoresponders letting clients know you are out of the office and when you will return will be enough until you return to the office and can address their needs more specifically. An auto-response for the period you are away from the office might be much better than no response at all until you return.
Consider ‘What If’s?’
It might seem counterintuitive, but when thinking about how to spend your vacation time, think about how you might choose to spend the time if you actually were taking a break because you were sick.
One professional recalls his experience while sick and quarantined with COVID-19. He spent his time journaling and doing deep self-reflection. He also spent his time reevaluating the time he spent with his girlfriend, his family, and even what his purpose was in life. When it was time for him to return to work, he was able to do so more healthily and he was able to enjoy it even more because he spent the time getting crystal clear on his priorities.
When you are feeling anxious, journaling can also help you to learn more about yourself and your motivations. The more you know yourself, the more confident you will be about the choices you make and how you choose to live your life.
If negative thoughts keep running through your head, writing them down can help you to get them out. Seeing them on paper might help you to put them into context. You are better able to see if they are warranted and need a problem-solving approach or if they are just fears that you need to overcome.
Take Your Time Easing Back Into Work
Don’t try to tackle everything immediately as you return to work. Schedule your days so that your high-priority tasks are completed but you still leave yourself enough time to re-adjust. If meetings are too intensive immediately, ease them into your schedule in the weeks after you return. If you spend the first day or two of your return thoughtfully scheduling, delegating, and completing immediate tasks, you set yourself up for a less stressful transition back to work.
Bring Some of Your Vacation Back to Work With You
You may not want to overrun your desk with vacation memorabilia but a breezy picture or two can trigger some moments of calm for you as you go through your day. Little trinkets like ornaments, souvenirs, or even specialty snacks can lighten your mood on the job. The idea is to take just enough of your vacation back with you so it keeps you as relaxed as possible at work but not so overwhelming or ostentatious that your coworkers think you’d really rather not be back in the office.
Keep Focus on the Positives
Studies show that your personal state of mind and your mental health can actually significantly impact your work life. If you really enjoy your job and have positive camaraderie with your coworkers, then going back to work after vacation will really be less stressful for you. If you are someone who has a positive and optimistic attitude, you will have fewer work-related problems, be more energetic, and of course, feel more peaceful and calm.
Plan something for your personal or professional development when you return to work. You can sign up for a seminar or class so that you have something to look forward to other than your usual typical day-to-day schedule. Having something planned can help give you a sense of purpose, a sense of personal satisfaction and growth, and it can also have the added benefit of making your work feel more rewarding.
Schedule Your Next Vacation
It may seem counterintuitive, but research shows that having your next vacation planned before you get back to work can give you something to look forward to. It keeps your mind in the headspace of relaxation, with just a gap of necessary work in between, to pay for the next vacation if for nothing else.
Speak With Your Boss
Think about the core cause of your anxieties. If the thought of your workload overwhelms you, then maybe your anxiety is warranted and you need to address the issue of being overworked or overbooked with your employer. If it is your commute that causes you concern, think about solutions to address it, such as if there are opportunities for flexible or remote work. Maybe you can even become creative with your work schedule. These are valid concerns you can bring up with your employer and once you have the solutions, maybe your anxiety level will lessen. Try not to take on more than you can manage, and have a conversation with your manager if you are feeling overwhelmed.
Preparing for work can add more feelings of certainty and fewer feelings of anxiety. Preparation can make the entire process less challenging. If you can do meal prep or any other routine task to clear time on your schedule for some form of continued relaxation when you are back at work, then this can help lessen your anxiety. Lidbetter advises, “Make to-do lists and try to stick to a routine, even though it may feel easier to stay in bed.”
Overestimating or underestimating your workload can turn out detrimental for you if you end up with more work than you can handle or way less than you anticipate so be realistic when making your preparations. It may be better for you to schedule and take on less work than necessary the first few days when you return to work. Crowe advises, “Separate tasks into smaller time periods, small bite-sized pieces.”
Try Mindfulness and Deep Breathing
Feelings of anxiety can come from projecting ahead and worrying about what may — or may not — happen. Those types of anxious feelings can be combated by mindfulness. Mindfulness is being aware of your surroundings and staying in the moment. Mindfulness quiets the feelings of anxiety and helps to improve your mental well-being. The American Psychological Association notes that mindful meditation is a research-proven way to reduce stress.
There are some grounding techniques that you can try to stay mindful of and keep yourself tethered to reality. Lidbetter says, “If you do find yourself feeling particularly anxious on the first day back at work, practicing deep breathing can help to reduce these feelings. This is done by breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth, with the focus being on your chest rising and falling for around three minutes. The key is to ensure that your ‘out breath’ is longer than your ‘in breath’.”
Deep breathing can help reduce anxiety after long days of stressful work. It is a subtle kind of activity that you can do anywhere and at any time throughout your day when you start to feel overwhelmed and stressed.
Deep breathing releases endorphins from your brain that can help you to stay positive, fall asleep faster, and take your mind off professional stressors.
Exercise is another good way to practice mindfulness. Exercise is good for our mental health because physical activity releases brain chemicals such as endorphins, which act as a mood-booster. Going back to work can indeed be exhausting but if you make time for a yoga video, a short gym class, or even just a walk, then those activities can certainly help you to cope with the feelings of anxiety that you experience.
Try Visualizing the Most Relaxing Scenarios
You can add visualizations to your mindfulness routine. Where mindfulness and mindful activities will lessen your stress and keep you more focused on reality, visualizations will help you to subconsciously start planning how you want your work environment to be when you get back into the office.
Visualize your ideal interaction with your co-workers, your supervisor, and your boss. Visualize your ideal office space and the way that you will be interacting with your surroundings when you return. Unless you work in an excessively stressful environment, these visualizations should help reduce the level of anxiety you have about returning to work.
Try Using Essential Oils
Aromatherapy using essential oils can promote relaxation and calmness in your home. It is something you can incorporate into your routine whether you are going on vacation or just your everyday routine. Using some peppermint oil in your house just before you leave for your vacation can keep the space welcoming and energizing when you return from your trip. You can explore several different ways to use essential oils to help calm your anxiety.
Plan Fun Activities
You don’t have to leave all the fun behind on your vacation. Instead, plan fun activities that you can still participate in and enjoy when you return to work. It can be as simple as going to the pub for drinks with colleagues after work or even arranging to see friends on the weekend. Just planning something you enjoy can help you tackle those anxious feelings about returning to work.
Crowe advises, “Make time for yourself and take your breaks. Plan a catch-up tea break with a colleague. You may even be surprised that reaching out and talking to a work colleague might help ease your own worries.”
Do Something Nice For Yourself
The activities you plan to reduce your stressors do not all have to be high intensity. You can do simple nice things for yourself that reduce your stress like indulging in your favorite snacks. You can add some flair to your typical routine by taking a long bubble bath instead of a quick shower. Another thing you can do is get a massage. These activities can help put you in a more positive mental frame for returning to work.
Write Down the Positives
Crowe gives some additional useful advice: ‘‘Focus on the people or elements of your job that you enjoy. Write down what you enjoy doing at work — helping others, problem-solving, dealing with projects, or being part of a team.’’
It is also important to remind yourself that you are not defined by your work. Instead, Crowe says, ‘‘Think about other elements of your life that interest you and focus on the things that positively impact you and enrich your life, such as your family and your hobbies.’’
Writing down the positives you can think of can become part of your journaling routine.
Disconnect From Social Media
Time off from social media is one of the best ways to quickly reclaim your time and connect with reality away from the virtual world. It will probably be fun for you while on vacation to share your adventures, but at the end of your vacation, you may want to stay offline just for a while.
Seeing what your friends and family are up to can induce more anxiety about having to go back to work rather than help you to keep the mellow vibe you gained from your vacation. Where you typically use social media as an escape, you might find on the cusp of returning to work that it is a source of anxiety inducement for you. It’s better for you to turn it off completely, focus on your responsibilities, and get refreshed for the work ahead.
Adjust Your Sleep Schedule Where Necessary
Your level of anxiety might also affect your sleep schedule. The best way to maximize the benefits of rest or to get your sleep schedule back to normal is to try and make adjustments to your schedule before you just hop right back into work.
It may mean that you need to go to bed earlier or that you wake up just a bit later, but the important thing is that you give yourself enough time to ease your anxiety and actually allow your body to naturally reset during your sleeping hours. Less sleep might induce greater anxiety and anxious thoughts can keep you up, but do your best to get the amount of sleep you need.
Ask for Help
If you find that your anxiety is making you delay your plans excessively or that the weight of it all seems just too much, then you should consider reaching out to your friends, family, and co-workers. Asking for help in itself is a huge step and even though others will likely get caught up with their own life, the people closest to you likely won’t have an issue assisting you if you ask for their help.
Asking for help can entail simple things like asking someone to check on your pet while you are away or even routing your urgent tasks at work while you are on your vacation.
Create Small Reminders
Setting reminders for when you go back to work can be useful, or they can help you prepare for work in a less anxiety-induced state. It is one thing to take a little bit of your vacation with you when you return to work. It is another thing to keep small reminders with you on vacation to keep your mind sharp for work when you return.
Whether it is indulging in things that give you inspiration or catching up on the last journal release you hadn’t found time to write yet, there is usually some work-related item that you enjoy and you can indulge in without giving up too much of your vacation time.
Take Breaks Until You Readjust to Your Usual Working Hours
When you initially return from your vacation, it is good for you to take short breaks to keep your tasks from being monotonous. You can do different things like getting a cup of coffee, taking a walk, or just otherwise finding something to do away from your desk. Any of these strategies can work especially if you experience any anxiety at all.
If You Are Dealing With A Child Who Has Back-to-School Anxiety
If You Are Dealing With A Child Who Has Back-to-School Anxiety
- Your child’s fears are valid and you should acknowledge them as such. Do not choose to dismiss them or make baseless and deprecating comments.
- Although children need to voice their fears and be reassured, avoid making comparisons about them to other children who may be better able to adjust and also avoid the reverse of that which is giving them assurances that everything will turn out alright without any real evidence of that being true.
- If you have a negative outlook on your child’s school and teacher, it is better to keep any disparaging or negative comments to yourself. You don’t want your child to internalize the negativity that you project and have it affect their performance at school and how they feel about themselves. Negative comments are bound to increase your child’s fear and anxiety.
- Avoid getting too involved in your child’s issues. Be there to guide them and correct them but don’t be too overbearing while you do so. It can make them feel pressured and increase their anxiety. Instead, give them the space and time they need to figure things out on their own.
- Be careful how you choose to communicate corrections to your child. If you get angry and scream at them, they may feel overburdened while they are trying to get ready for school in the mornings. Instead, try to model the behavior for them that will help them to manage their time better while still remaining calm and collected. You may project your own fears and anxiety onto your child if you are not careful.