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Beat the back to work blues

The most wonderful, yet stressful, time of year has graced us with its presence and left quicker than a flurry of snow - remember being merry and bright the blink-of-an-eye-ago? Goodbye December and sparkly, party numbers, hello January and thick winter coats to get us back to the office in a toasty manner (or perhaps it’s still your dressing gown getting you to the WFH spot?).

Although the year is new, the weather is not, the dark mornings are not, you might be returning to work with rosy cheeks but that’s most likely because it’s so flippin’ cold. It makes getting up and out of bed feel almost impossible some days, the thought of defrosting the car or slipping to the bus stop to start the commute might send shivers down - well, everything.

Why do we get the blues going back to work?

Even those of us who love our jobs can struggle to get back into the swing of things in January, and it’s not surprising really. It’s likely we’ve just spent a good chunk of time away from work and the fleet of daily emails. And wasn’t it bliss?

Switching back on is no easy feat, whether you’re returning after the Christmas break or from any holiday. It’s a challenge to muster the motivation and energy to be productive, to get back to the grind, to be up on time. Maybe you switched off from work, but your brain was by no means switched off?

The busyness of December versus the lull of January, getting back to reality, to the day-to-day things like chores, responsibilities, work - everything we let slide while on holiday - can be a navigational nightmare for some of us. We might be left feeling unrested, fatigued or socially drained from December. To then go back into work-mode, responsible-got-it-together adult mode is hard work. Kind of like going on an adventure holiday (or just one with kids) and coming back to feel like we need another week to recover and play catch-up. If we could just have a post-Christmas-recovery-break wouldn’t that be fab?

What adds to the already unappealing return to work, is the frenzy of negativity that surrounds January. The month is societally framed as ‘depressing’, miserable, and blue. A notion that is increasingly difficult to escape. Which if you pause to think about for a moment, it’s no wonder we find it hard. Going from December, the month of joy and magic, to January, the month of misery and miserable weather. That’s quite the high to low and it’s everywhere, all over the media - we’ve even joined in!

In the words of Michael Jackson - BEAT IT!

If you find January challenging, I can confirm you’re absolutely not alone. It's totally understandable, normal and ok. My birthday is in January and even that can’t keep me smiling all month long - despite endless celebrations. Here are five tips to keep you going, and to beat those back to work blues at least - we can’t control the weather, but we can try to make the best out of it, right?

1. Arrange a productivity meeting

Whole team, small group, the people you work closely with, are friends with, the boss! Make it a social working event to come together to motivate and inspire each other to get back into the swing of things. Catch up on holiday shenanigans, find out what’s on everyone's work plate, what’s next, what you’re all excited about. It’ll help with productivity and morale, and it’s a nice way to ease back in, and reunite.

2. Get organised

Set up your desk or workspace (if it’s at home or you can get to the office), remind yourself of where you left off, what’s on the to-do list, get supplies - new stationery always motivates me a little (mainly just to write lists, but eventually the list get completed). Make some time to check in before the morning you return, it’ll feel less overwhelming and gives us some time to get our heads back into the work game before arriving.

3. Make the most of the quieter times

January might be a quieter time for your workload, so make the most of that. Use the time to focus on your interests at work to help drive productivity. Get some rest, physically or mentally, read a book over lunch or get outside for a walk - maybe lie down for half an hour. Take care of yourself in your personal life, take advantage of the slow month by finding a hobby. Ease yourself back into the working routine.

4. Nail the wake-up routine

You might think an early night is the way to a good first day back. The Sleep Geek confirms good sleep definitely is, but we’ve all been there lying awake watching the hours turn into the minutes before the alarm goes off - frustrated and exhausted. Focus on a consistent wake-up time that allows you to do what you need to do pre-work. Make time for a nice breakfast (looking forward to it will help when hiding under the covers is much more appealing), plan to go to your favourite coffee shop before work. Whatever sets you up for the day, make time for it - even if it’s 3 deep breaths and a stretch before rolling out of bed and straight onto Zoom.

5. Reframe the negativity

Perhaps you quite like January or perhaps you could come to like it? Try reframing the misery into something helpful. The cold nights mean relaxing on the sofa guilt-free. The rainy and cold weather means soups and stewed dinners - they’re comforting. Big jumpers and fluffy socks, need I say more? Maybe you strive under the work routine, even if getting back into it is difficult, so being back to work is going to be good really. We’re surrounded by the idea that January is hard, and while it is, it can make it seem so much harder when we’re constantly reminded. What’s one thing you enjoy about January?


Happy January: have you ever seen or heard that before?! It’s totally ok to find the month a challenge. It’s totally ok to take it easy, be gentle with yourself and take care. Remember we’re all still feeling the strain of the pandemic too - while it’s not so much of a hot topic, it’s very much present and still in the news. Be compassionate and kind this January, I hope it’s a happy one!


Grace McMahon

Beingwell Chief Life Coach




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