As the calendar turns to August, it’s time for many of us to snap out of our easy-breezy holiday mode and return to the everyday grind. We foresee the dreaded post-holiday blues on the horizon for many. Studies show that a staggering 73% of individuals experience anxiety or stress when returning to work after a rejuvenating break. But fear not! The sleep experts at Happy Beds teamed up with the renowned sleep psychologist, Dr. Katherine Hall, to reveal their top tips for overcoming post-holiday blues through the transformative power of sleep.
What Are Post-Vacation Blues?
Post-vacation blues usually occur on the night before going back to work after coming back from a holiday or a break. As a result, many people struggle to sleep.
Explaining this phenomenon, Dr Hall said, “It’s a fascinating interplay of psychological and physiological factors. During vacations, individuals experience a shift in their daily routines, including their sleep patterns. These irregular sleep schedules and disruptions in circadian rhythms can make it challenging for the body to readjust when it’s time to return to work, leading to sleep disturbances and difficulty falling asleep on the night before resuming work.”
“Moreover, vacations often create a more relaxed mindset, where people indulge in leisure activities and stay up later than usual. Transitioning back to a structured and disciplined mindset for work can create cognitive dissonance, making it even more difficult to fall asleep due to this reverse ‘vacation mindset’,” she further stated.
“Additionally, on the night before going back to work, many individuals experience a fear of the unknown. The prospect of facing new projects, challenges, or changes in the workplace can trigger anticipatory stress, which can seriously interfere with their ability to sleep soundly,” Dr Hall continued.
“Resuming work responsibilities after a rejuvenating holiday can also evoke feelings of anxiety and stress. Worries about pending tasks, workloads, or potential challenges can lead to racing thoughts and heightened physiological arousal, making it tough to unwind and fall asleep effectively the night before as well.”
So, with that said, let’s dive into the fascinating interplay of psychological and physiological factors that make the return to work a challenge and explore seven actionable tips for a peaceful and smooth transition.
7 Tips For A Smooth Transition From Vacation To Work-Mode
While the post-vacation blues may want to rethink your entire career, there are strategies to help navigate through those feelings with the power of good sleep. Here are Happy Bed’s top sleep tips for a smooth transition:
Gradually Adjust Your Sleep Schedule
“As a sleep psychologist, I recommend a different approach: gradually adjust your sleep schedule as you prepare to return to work,” suggested Dr. Hall. Waking up closer to your usual work time a few days in advance helps your body readjust its internal clock, making the reintegration into the work environment much smoother. This proactive step can significantly alleviate post-holiday blues and ensure you start your work week with a refreshed and rested mindset.
Avoid Sunday Afternoon Naps
“I know this is a hard one, as I love a good nap just as much as the next person! But afternoon naps can cause even more disruption to your sleep schedule when you need to be getting it back on track before returning to work,” warned Dr. Hall. It’s common to feel tempted to stay up late the night before returning to work after a vacation. However, this can exacerbate the post-holiday blues and make your work week even more challenging to manage.
Feeling less tired at your regular bedtime can interfere with getting the restorative rest your body needs. Instead of napping, engage in light physical activity to keep yourself awake and active and then get your sleep hours in at night.
Six Minutes of Reading to Reduce Stress
“The night before you go back to work, you may be tempted to check your emails or scroll on social media. However, the blue light emitted from your phone suppresses your melatonin levels,” explained Dr. Hall. Instead, opt for reading. According to a study by The University of Sussex, reading can reduce stress by up to 68%, working faster and better than other relaxation methods, such as listening to music (61%) or walking (6%). Besides reducing stress, reading before bed promotes deeper sleep, leaving you more refreshed when you wake up.
However, the most impressive statistic of the study revealed that participants only needed to read for six minutes before their stress levels were reduced. So, given that the average reading speed is 1 page per minute, this means the average person only needs to read six pages before their stress levels are reduced, making this an easy habit to form for anyone. Additionally, reading an absorbing book also makes you more likely to experience an increase in slow-wave activity (a type of brain wave associated with deep sleep) during the initial stages of your sleep cycle, meaning you’ll have a deeper sleep overall and wake up feeling more restful.
Acupressure Hack for Better Sleep
“If you’re struggling to fall asleep, there’s a simple technique to soothe yourself into a quicker slumber,” advised Dr. Hall. Try rubbing the inner part of your wrist, where you’ll find four acupressure points known as Heart 4, 5, 6, and 7. These points are renowned for their stress-relieving properties, as they help reduce cortisol levels, the infamous stress hormones. By gently applying pressure to these points, you can alleviate stress and create a more serene environment for falling asleep.
The Ice Pack Hack for Anxiety Relief
“Alternatively, if you’re anxious the night before and need help calming down, you should add a towel-wrapped ice pack to your chest and hold it there for 15 minutes,” said Dr. Hall. This helps cool down the vagus nerve (the longest nerve in your body), which is responsible for your parasympathetic nervous system. Throughout the 15 minutes, you will slowly see yourself calming down and your heart rate lowering to a more restful pace.
Plan Your Outfit the Night Before
“To alleviate morning stress and set the stage for a smooth work week, I recommend picking your outfit the night before,” Dr. Hall suggested. This simple act saves time and minimises the risk of being late for work, reducing additional stress during the post-holiday period. A little preparation goes a long way in helping you tackle post-holiday blues.
Embrace the Morning Sun
We all know that the morning sun is a great natural alarm clock, helping us wake up after a restful slumber. But did you know that exposing yourself to early morning sunshine can also positively impact your sleep at night? Basking in the morning sunlight helps regulate your internal clock in sync with daylight hours, leading to a more balanced sleep-wake cycle. Additionally, the sunlight’s effects on hormone cycles and body temperature can contribute to improved sleep patterns.
The Bottom Line
As you bid farewell to your breakfast mimosas by the beach and head back to work, remember that sleep can be your secret weapon to turn a terrible Monday into a slightly bearable one.