People often try to romanticise everyday lows as depression. Image Credit: Supplied

Break time is over and real life is beckoning. Are you feeling a sense of dread? Are you suffering from the post-holiday blues? We’ll let you in on a badly kept secret: it’s not that unusual to feel a dip in your mood; a survey put the number of people affected by post-vacation anxiety at 39 per cent! So here’re some FAQs on how to get yourself back on track.

Why am I sad?

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Dr Mrabet Jihene, Clinical Psychologist and Assistant professor at the American University in the Emirates, explains that the slip in serotonin levels is normal. “When you are on holiday you are not responsible about anything, so you just have to enjoy your time; there is no duty. When you think about coming back to work you begin to think, ‘ok, the problem will start’; anxiety begins.”

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“Post-holiday blues…may also be caused by a sense of loss of the positive aspects of a holiday e.g. time with family or loved ones, novelty, excitement, relaxation. One can be refreshed after a holiday, but it depends on whether you were able to make time for activities that re-energise you and if you had sufficient time to de-compress from daily life,” adds Aamnah Husain,Counseling Psychologist at the German Neuroscience Center.

What are the factors that may account for me being affected?

■ Psychological background and personality: Do you suffer from anxiety or depression? If yes, you may feel it more deeply.

■ Environmental factors: “[If you] are faced with challenging life conditions or face environmental factors that cause loneliness, stress, feelings of guilt or sadness, you may be more affected by post-holiday blues,” says Dr Husain. Cash concerns may also be getting you down.

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■ Duration: “If the vacation is too long, then the adaptability, or the adjustment, will be a little difficult,” says Dr Jihene. And, says Dr Husain, “If your holiday has been very hectic and there isn’t much time to re-adjust to everyday life, that may also lower your mood.”

■ Being judgemental about your difficulty with adjusting back to regular life could cause additional issues.

■ Are you satisfied by your real life? It may be a signal that you need to change things in your life.

What are the stages of the post-holiday blues?

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Dr Jihene explains that the stages are similar to that of grief.

■ Denial: Trying to deny the joy that you [gained] during the trip.

■ Anger: Feeling irritable with your workload and your colleagues; you may start hating everything.

■ Bargaining: Maybe trying to take a new class in management or convince yourself that you have a lot of things to do.

■ Depression: tired, things are not working like you want, hating the routine in which you are drowned will be very, very important.

■ Acceptance: So you accept that this is how life is. Think about whether it’s time to change something or start looking forward to your next vacation.

At what point do I need to worry?

If you feel the same sense of sadness after a week – look within for the real reason. If the low moods persist – go see a professional who can help you make sense of things. “If your feelings of low mood persist for months, you lack energy and motivation for things you previously enjoyed, there are significant changes in sleep or appetite, continuing feelings of sadness, irritability and isolation, have a sense of hopelessness and difficulty focusing and concentrating on daily tasks, experience fatigue or thoughts about self-harm, you may be depressed,” says Dr Husain.

How do I make this better?

■ Take a day to adjust yourself to reality: “This will help you to prepare for the next day – checking your email, getting your outfit ready, maybe stocking up your fridge,” says Dr Jihene.

■ Keep day one simple: Don’t overdo it at work, it’s a period of adjustment.

■ Focus…on important things to do. It will give you a sense of purpose.

■ Print your holiday photos so that your memory will be something that enriches you.

■ Introduce the elements of your holiday into your daily life. “If relaxation was a gratifying part of your holiday, make time for a meditation practice,” explains Dr Husain.

■ Recognise that this adjustment period may be challenging but is temporary.

My kid is acting out. WHY?

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“They [children] will not explain their anxiety with words,” warns Dr Jihene. But you can tell if they are suffering from the post-vacation blues, too.

OK, so what are the symptoms?

■ Lack of appetite,

■ Trouble sleeping,

■ Moodiness,

■ Sometimes irritability and an inability to control that irritability.

■ They may skip activities that they usually like.

How long will this go on?

Wait three weeks and try to help him/her out of it. If things don't change for the better – get help.

What can I do?

Do this

■ Be patient: show them understanding; help them to express their feelings

■ Talk about the holiday and the good memories

■ Plan Family activities: “When you are on holiday you are really [bonding] with family. So when you come back it [may get lonely],” explains Dr Jihene

■ Set a routine: “Kids need predictability,” she explains. “[It] calms them and allows them to concentrate on other things”.

Do not say

■ Ungrateful brat: “How come you are not grateful after we take you for a holiday, we gave you all that you want?”

■ What's wrong with you? "You have been on a holiday, how come you are like this?”

DIFFERING VIEWPOINTS

Coming home… I love it

Everyone around me always complains about feeling sad and depressed when they are back from holiday. I on the other hand, love being back home. Even if was in the most exciting country, or visiting my family in my hometown, there’s something really nice about coming back to my real life.

I get to sleep in my own bed, drive my car and go to my favourite places. I can catch up with my friends, relax on my couch and go out to the places I love. Travelling is always fun. I love going away on new adventures. Leaving behind my ‘real life’ and enjoying myself a little too much, but when it’s time to head back home I am ready to do it!

Anticipating your vacation is great, but living in anticipation for your vacation is not cool. Your life has to be enjoyable enough for you not to dread the end of your holiday. What I like to do is figure out how to make my life as enjoyable as a vacation. Whether it’s having breakfast by the beach, spending the day by the pool, reading on the couch or taking a long luxurious bath, it is imperative to inject the feeling of a vacation in your daily life, or else you’re just living day to day without any excitement or relaxation in life.

- Yousra Zaki, Deputy Guides Editor

Why I dread coming back from holiday

The break last week was a revitalising, delicious – and much craved-for – break in an otherwise hectic month. I did things I usually think are a waste of time such as relaxing, staring into space and laughing.

I got home in time for a long sleep before I had to head to work.

And yet come morning, this was me:

It’s difficult to open my eyes. It’s tough rolling out of bed and going through the motions of getting dressed for work.

It’s the end of a holiday.

After much consideration, I’ve come to the realisation that while I love to travel, there is an optimal number of days where I can be away from my desk, happy and unconcerned. Step on that particular landmine though and BOOM! I’ll be in the throes of sadness for a while.

I’ll begin to check out destinations and short trips not taken. Beat myself up about a project I haven’t completed or just be frozen in fear: Will I ever have such a good time again?

It’s not that I hate my job – I spend my days doing what I love.

Upon return, I find myself wrapped in vines of envy – I envy those on vacation and worse, those who have returned refreshed. Why can I not handle my day-to-day life? I am tense about becoming too relaxed. What if I’ve lost the rhythm I had before I left? Life is always easier in hindsight.

With a deadly case of FOMO, usually I expend every effort to enjoy my holiday run:

■ Missing naps – check

■ Joining on the day of my return- check

■ Working while I’m off – check

So when I’m back to the regular schedule I understand part of the wear and tear.

And this time was meant to be a departure from the back-home-now-what? blues.

But then, here’s what happened:

I enter office and it’s time to skim expressions – a smile, a nod, a frown? Have I been missed or was it a good-riddance-to-bad-rubbish sort of thing?

The questions percolate into a throbbing of the brain cells. The light has begun to hurt my eyes. My palms are sweaty and breathing tough.

Fortunately a smile emerges and the fear abates. To be happy might take a while, but I suppose there’s always the prospect of another time-out. -K.N.