How to cope with post-Christmas back-to-work anxiety

The dread is setting in right about now (Picture: Getty/

Lots of people have enjoyed an extended break over the Christmas period – free from emails, tricky clients, irritating coworkers and more.

But for many this is about to come to an end, as office life – and the reality of 2022 – firmly sets in.

After blissful days spent with loved ones over Christmas and new year, returning to work is an unwelcome thought.

In fact, the ‘Sunday scaries’ that we usually experience during the final fleeting hours of a typical weekend are out in full force right now. But because of the extended time off over Christmas, this back-to-work anxiety and dread has been amplified tenfold.

‘After a rest and refresh, with little else to think about other than which Netflix series to binge and what chocolates to eat, back to work anxiety can be very real,’ says life coach Natalie Trice.

‘It’s totally natural to worry about what the days and weeks ahead hold, but try not to let that take over.’

If you do find yourself fretting this evening about going back-to-work tomorrow, experts have shared some simple things to keep in mind:

Try to get to the root of your worry

Natalie stresses that exploring what is causing your emotions to rise is a good place to start.

She says: ‘Is it a difficult client, a lack of challenge or is there a colleague you just don’t see eye to eye with? Are you working too long hours or are you nervous about a train commute as Covid continues to dominate our lives?

‘By pin-pointing what’s causing the issues, you can start to break this down and put coping strategies in place – such as setting up review meetings, asking to work at home or speaking to your manager about new responsibilities that might stretch you.’

Talk about how you’re feeling

There’s no denying that post-holiday blues are something felt by many, of all ages, so chatting to a family member or friend might make you feel a little better.

‘Discuss how you feel with a friend, or even with a colleagues – as sharing in this particular case may lessen the stress and anxiety,’ says Dr Jeanina Mahrenholz from Chelsea Pharmacy Medical Clinic.

Get an early night

Dr Jeanina adds that winding down and getting a good night of sleep will make you feel better too – and should also help combat middle-of-the-night anxiety.

She says: ‘The day before your first day, have an early night, put your electronics away, write down your concerns and write down five things you are most grateful for that have taken place this holiday season, and allow your body and mind to rest.’

Plan your week ahead

Anxiety and stress can often come from feeling out of control – so taking some time to plan the week ahead might help counteract this.

Dr Jeanina says: ‘Create and prepare a slow back to work and life routine during the first two weeks, which might include some light exercise, perhaps some additional healthy meal planning, and checking your vitamin closet and stocking up on the beneficial ones for you.’

Meditate and breathe

Deep breathing is a simple and effective way to calm the body when we are tense.

‘Meditation and breathing exercises, even during the first week at work in short break times, may help as well,’ adds Dr Jeanina.

Experts previously told that deep breathing helps to boost the supply of oxygen to the brain. This, in turn, stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which controls bodily functions during times of stress.

So if you’re feeling overwhelmed, take a moment to try this.

Create a manageable ‘to-do’ list

Sometimes it’s the sheer amount of work we have waiting for us that can cause stress and anxiety.

But Dr Becky Spelman, a psychologist and clinical director of Private Therapy Clinic, says breaking your ‘to-do’ list down into manageable, bite-sized chunks can help.

You can even start doing this tonight, if you feel yourself worrying about tomorrow – that way you’ll feel a little more prepared.

‘It can be overwhelming when work has completely piled up after taking time off, and it’s quite normal for this to cause anxiety and even stress for people,’ explains Dr Becky.

‘It’s good to break things down into tasks. This makes things more manageable – which makes it easier to get started.

‘If we can enhance our perception of our ability to get things done and tackle all of the tasks, then it reduces the stress – because the stress is about the perception of not being able to cope with it all.’

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