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Going back to work after the lazy summer holidays might feel like a harrowing re-entry into reality when having to face the gruelling daily commute again, along with an email inbox stretching out like the Dead Sea Scrolls.

You got a glimpse of freedom whilst on holiday, but now you’re back where you started. If you’re experiencing regular headaches, feelings of tiredness, loss of appetite and are having strong feelings of nostalgia, you could be suffering from a classic case of post-holiday depression.

For most however, the post-holiday blues usually wears off after a few weeks, but some may experience it more intensely which can last for several months if not managed with care.

Mariska van Aswegen, spokesperson for Pharma Dynamics – a generics firm specialising in antidepressants – says more than a quarter of Americans suffer annually from post-holiday depression, which is bound to be the same for South Africans too.

“Almost everyone is subject to post-holiday depression, especially if it’s been a long and pleasurable holiday. Getting back on track after having to swap the beach and blue skies for the view of your laptop in a stuffy office is tough and it’s completely normal to experience dips in mood, motivation and energy for the first few weeks.

“However, for some, post-holiday depression can result in a feeling that you no longer want to keep doing what you’re doing and all you can think of is making a change to your life to better your situation. Often, if action isn’t taken or the situation doesn’t improve, these thoughts can consume you and lead to major distress and debilitating depression,” she says.

To help ease your way into regular life again and specifically to combat post-holiday blues, Van Aswegen suggest the following:

·        Share your holiday experiences with family and friends or look at photos and souvenirs – somehow reliving the holidays offers a sense of comfort.
·        If you really enjoyed a particular holiday spot or activity – whether it’s kite-boarding or hiking, start planning your next get-away and/or purchase equipment needed to enjoy the activity more often. This offers a distraction and gives you something to look forward to.
·        Don’t dwell on the negative, since stress and disappointment can get you down. Try to make a conscious effort to be positive.
·        It’s important to unplug or disconnect every now and then. Your brain needs a break from the constant demands that phone calls, emails, SMSes, Tweets and other forms of social media place upon it.
·        Feed your body and mind with a healthy diet and daily exercise. This might also help you achieve some of your goals for the new year, while setting you on a path of health and happiness. Exercise releases endorphins (the feel good hormones) which will instantly lift your mood.

“Another theory behind post-holiday depression is the ‘let down effect’, which is described as a condition where high energy levels in the body are followed by a rapid decline in activation levels. The highs you experienced during the holidays may leave you feeling depleted physically and mentally once you go back to work.

“If however your blues don’t lift after a few weeks back at work, consider reaching out to your family, friends or a mental health professional. Alternatively contact Pharma Dynamics’ toll-free helpline on 0800 205 026, which is manned by trained counsellors who are on call from 8am to 8pm, seven days a week, to help you regain your mental strength,” she concludes.

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