Back to work without weeping

WHAT are the odds that you’ll wake up every morning this week, open one eye and think: “Why on earth is my alarm going off in the middle of the night?”

Then reality will strike. Christmas is over, so no more lazy weekdays on the beach or trawling the shops for summer sales. You have to work.

It’s enough to strike terror into even the most enthusiastic employee.

So now what? How do you return to reality?

The first step is to embrace the blues. Because they’re not your fault. Researchers have found the negative emotions associated with the end of the festive period, plus two weeks of irregular sleep patterns, can throw our body- clocks out of synch and make us feel jet-lagged.

Returning to our normal routine of early nights can induce what’s been dubbed “social jet lag”. Symptoms can include feeling sluggish, struggling to sleep, indigestion, loss of appetite, difficulty concentrating, memory problems, clumsiness, lack of energy and general fatigue.

The main thing to remember is that you will display some strengths and some weaknesses during your first days back.

Start gently, by all means – unless you’re the kind of person who hits the ground running and is in the gym by lunchtime on day one – but don’t use the period after the festive break as an excuse to slack. It won’t look good.

Instead, acknowledge where your dwindling energy will be best used.

Being honest with yourself is half the battle and will mean you don’t end up feeling frustrated, or letting others down.

Part of this is accepting you will have to devote a chunk of time to tackling e-mail: a thankless but necessary task. For many, tackling their inbox after the holiday can take the best part of a day.

Mediacom chief executive Karen Blackett says she gets into the right frame of mind for the first day back by “going through my diary for the day ahead the night before and trying to go to sleep at a decent hour. Starting the day with a green juice, getting into the office an hour before normal then blocking out an hour in my diary during the day for e- mails and internal catch ups.”

“I also drink lots of green tea and use an aromatherapy oil roll on my pressure points when I start to lag.”

Founder of networking company Citymothers, Louisa Symington-Mills, agrees a little preparation the night before can take the pain out of going back to work.

“Be organised – choose your clothes for the next day, find your work security pass, step away from the wine and go to bed early,” she says.

“Try to arrive at your desk in the morning with all the positive mental attitude you can muster. Don’t grumble about the end of the holidays, or get caught up in colleagues’ stories of insane parties or new year’s resolutions.

“Focus on the year and opportunities ahead, and remind yourself why you enjoy your job – and if you can’t remember, perhaps it’s time to look for another.”

Whether you look for a new role, or take up a hobby – it’s a good idea to think about something new as you head back to the office. You’ve just had a glimpse into a world where work isn’t the be all and end all. Try to capitalise on this objectivity.

She recommends starting small: “Stretching yourself mentally is vital, but personal goals don’t have to be overly ambitious. The key is to be realistic.
“Push yourself just that bit further than you think you can possibly be stretched, but don’t look to a goal to ‘reinvent’ yourself.”

Taking her advice on board, I’m starting a pottery course next week. I think a few hours messing about with clay each week might be rather therapeutic.

What’s more, our creative juices flow more after returning to work, when our brains have been in a state of relaxation. That’s something to take advantage of, whether you throw yourself into brainstorms, present a new idea to your boss or channel it into something extra-curricular.

And finally, remember that everyone is in the same boat. – The Telegraph


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