Beat the back to work blues

Holidays are often much anticipated and enjoyed, but frequently we start to think about heading back to work even when we’re still on leave.

7 simple steps to make your return to work go more smoothly.

1. Breathe

Yeah, we know you’re doing that already but if we breathe in a certain way it can alter our mood and calm us down. If we’re feeling stressed or anxious, using a longer out breath activates the parasympathetic nervous system. This calms the body’s “fight or flight” response and helps produce a state of equilibrium. Using a longer out breath helps our bodies return to a calmer state making it easier for us to deal with whatever situation we find ourselves in. So make your breath work for you. Whenever someone or something pushes your buttons, remember to breathe.

2. Superhero Pose

You know the one; wide stance, hands on hips, shoulders back, chin up, toothy smile, the cape and pants over trousers are optional! We’re not suggesting you do this all the time, but it is good to be aware of your posture. Body language is important and not just in our communication with others but also with ourselves. When we adopt a confident stance we can trick our brains into feeling more empowered and self-assured. This is also a great tool for those moments when we are nervous or anxious but need and want to feel more confident. So next time you have an interview, presentation or challenging conversation take a moment to adjust your posture.

3. Prioritise

Chances are there’s a mountain of tasks awaiting our return to work, and it may feel overwhelming. Take some time to get clear on what needs to be done, then prioritise the most important and urgent things. If there is one large task break it down into smaller steps to make it more achievable. It may help to estimate roughly how long a task will take and allocate time to it. Be realistic around what you can achieve in the time available.

There are various models to help with task prioritisation. The Eisenhower Matrix is one example, it’s also known as the Urgent-Important Matrix. It helps sort the urgent and important tasks from less urgent, less important ones which could either be delegated or not done at all.

4. Acknowledge

Notice your thoughts and feelings. Yes, it really is that simple! There is no need to fix or change anything, just notice. Often that can be enough. If you’re not sure what you are thinking or how you are feeling that’s OK too, acknowledge the uncertainty of not knowing. Awareness provides us with insight. When we observe our thoughts and feelings as just that, thoughts and feelings, we can see that they are separate from us. This can be especially useful in times of stress or upset. Just notice and breathe (step 1). Awareness provides a chance for us to consciously respond, rather than automatically react.

5. Appreciate

It’s very easy to get sucked into the busyness of work and forget to notice all the good stuff going on around us. Taking time to notice what and who is making a difference to us is a wonderful skill, and yes it is a skill. It’s simple but simple doesn’t always mean easy; appreciation is a skill that takes practice.

Appreciation is NOT a way to influence, persuade or have someone compliment you in return.

Appreciation IS acknowledgement without an agenda. You may choose to tell the person what you appreciate about them or their work, but you don’t have to say or do anything. Thinking “thank you” in your head is enough. If you work alone, notice and appreciate what is going well for you, what pleases you, what would you miss if it wasn’t there or didn’t happen.

Maybe it’s you who wants or needs to be appreciated. It’s OK to ask to be acknowledged for something and it’s also something you can do for yourself. Give yourself a big old high five, stand tall (step 2) and enjoy the glow of your own awesomeness!

6. Get Outside

Legally workers have the right to one uninterrupted 20 minute rest break during the working day, if they work more than 6 hours a day. This could be a tea or lunch break, whether it is paid or unpaid depends on your contract (GOV.UK).

Make sure you take your break and if you can, get outside and find some nature. Even in built up areas we’re confident you’ll be able to find some green; a tree, patch of grass, some moss or a hedge. Humans evolved in nature and when we are in a natural environment we feel happier. Research shows that being in green spaces is beneficial to our health and wellbeing. Benefits include lowered blood pressure, reduced blood sugar, improved concentration and memory, boosted immune system, improved mood, better pain thresholds and greater energy levels.

If you really can’t get outside then looking at a photo of nature will provide a natural boost until you can get outside for real.

7. Rest, Restore and Recharge

When you finish work, really finish and stop working. This can be especially challenging because there is such flexibility around where and when we work. Plus, technological advances mean that we don’t truly leave “the office”, even when we physically leave our working space.

Work can easily follow us. Boundaries and self-discipline will only get us so far. So what’s the answer? Make sure you do something everyday that resources you. Do more things that make you forget to check your phone. Find activities that allow you to be “in flow”. Activities where you can be fully immersed and focused, when you enjoy what you’re doing and lose all sense of time.

At Fresh Air Fridays we talk about the importance of “Filling Yourself Up First”, which means doing the stuff that recharges and replenishes us. To show up in life the way we want to, we first need to make sure we are OK. What this looks like for each of us will be as varied and individual as we are, and it won’t always be the same thing from day to day.

Do you know what do you need to fill yourself up? Do you know how to make sure it happens?

We can help with that, so join us on a session!

Our community sessions run on a monthly basis and are the perfect way to unwind and re-fuel enabling you to create a life you love. Your first session is FREE so you’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain!

Find a session near you, visit our Sessions List page.

These tips aren’t top secret so do share. Let’s look after ourselves and each other!

For more information about who Fresh Air Fridays are and what we do, visit our About page.

written by

Mo Sanders