It’s the same ritual every year: Summer comes and then in the blink of an eye it’s over and September is upon you.
With that comes the inevitable feeling that the best part of the year is over leaving us to wait for either the next festive holiday or for next summer when we can repeat this cycle all over again.
As such it can be difficult to differentiate between being down because your vacation is over or if you are just generally feeling stuck in life. Are we being ungrateful about not being on holiday anymore or do the holiday blues really exist?
Dr Sheri Jacobson, Clinical Director of Harley Therapy explains to HuffPost UK that the holiday blues do in fact exist although she notes that, “there’s no way to paint a broad brush on these feelings even if in a way it is a loss”.
However Dr Jacobson admits there are some clear reasons why someone would feel the holiday blues.
“Most people enjoy holidays because of the grind of life. They don’t have to wake up to an alarm every morning or do the daily commute or check in. Holidays tend to generally be a bit more relaxed,” she explains.
“It’s also about going from one extreme to another: a freedom to manoeuvre and a liberal schedule to a constrained one. Once back into the routine, it will become normalised once again.”
Sometimes though post-holiday blues are not temporary and can in fact inspire us to make quite significant changes in our lives whether that’s a hobby, a new romantic relationship or even a new career.
For Rhiannon Monks, founder of the travel app TravlTalk, this is exactly what happened. For 15 years Monks was compulsive traveller, visiting some 80 countries across the world, unable to call a single place home. It wasn’t until she journeyed with friends to her favourite spot in Thailand that she was encouraged to leave her job and ultimately do what makes her happy.
“I literally went back to work and seven days later handed in my notice,” says Monks.
These drastic decisions when feeling those post-holiday blues are normal explains Dr Jacobson.
“People look at things from a fresh perspective. The new and different environments away from daily constraints makes people sit down and reflect and usually decide to either take up a new hobby, start a new career or even enlist help like start therapy.”
While Monks’ decision to leave a successful career in PR and move across the world from Sydney to London might seem drastic, her actions were still completely rational.
“Honestly, I do look back onto that trip to Thailand as the catalyst. At 32, I almost felt like I had to start again but that trip, though trying not to sound cliche felt like a re-birth”.
Similarly, freelance journalist Phee Waterfield, 29, is thankful for her post-holiday blues decisions even though it meant enduring some pain.
“I had moved back to London from Devon after splitting up from my ex-husband and was so put off with love and didn’t want to have children,” says Waterfield. “All I wanted was to focus on a career but that Christmas I made a spur of the moment decision to go to LA and I reconnected with an old friend.”
Following the trip Waterfield was in the midst of her holiday blues when she realised that the way she was feeling extended far beyond her trip. “The job that I had, the relationships I was having, though I suffer from a mental illness anyway, I realised everything was not in my favour...I realised I was living a life that cost me to be more miserable,” she says.
“So I went home, packed my bag and called my line manager to explain why I was going on sudden sick leave and went home to Hull for two weeks.”
Now pregnant, doing what she enjoys and in a healthy space, Waterfield urges those who are feeling their post-holiday blues to ask themselves why. “Your holiday blues are supposed to last a week but a month? I would say take the time and figure out what you want to do. There’s clearly something in your life that is not right that you may not have seen just yet. Maybe this can be the motivation to take a step back and and reevaluate what you want from life”.
But what should you do if you are suffering from the post-holiday blues? Dr Jacobson shares her three key tips:
First, having a notion of self-compassion is important here. Do not beat yourself up for feeling low and acknowledge those feelings exist by being kind and understanding on yourself. This is fairly normal and understandable so don’t force yourself to be in a better state of mind.
I always advise my clients to be able to write down or in a notepad on their phone share how they’re feeling whatever that might be. Journalling is so useful so be explicit with your emotions: let yourself be angry or emotive.
A simple CBT way of handling your post-holiday blues is by taking a thought, for example, ‘I can’t be bothered to do my job’ and thinking the opposite such as ‘I can’t envisage leaving my job.’ Then try to find the balanced thought in the middle like ‘I feel stretched by work but I value my colleagues and I’m going to stay here for a while.’