Back to work blues will be common around the country this week as people trickle back from their holidays, but experts say a few good coping strategies will help relieve the pressure.

It’s not all gloomy, with experts saying this could be a good time to set some career goals or start looking for a new job.

The Mental Health Foundation NZ says back to work blues are pretty common.

The significant break for us in New Zealand is around this time, and when people start flooding back to work, the reaction can be quite profound.

While some people may have had time to recharge over a long break, for others the holidays could be quite stressful, with extra responsibilities over family times.

People should try to ease back into work.

Try thinking about when your next break is so you’re not contemplating an endless work period without any break, suggests MHF NZ.

For some it might be a good time to think, ‘Well, if coming back to work feels so gloomy and awful, is this really the right place for me? Is this something I should be thinking about or talking to others about?’ So that kind of reflection can be useful.

It is important people look after themselves – including getting enough sleep, eating well and exercising.

The back to work blues is a fleeting feeling for most, but those who were still anxious or down after a few weeks should consider talking to their GP.

It might not just be back to work blues – it might be depression or an anxiety state that needs some help.

NZ workplace psychology expert Helena Cooper Thomas said holidays were good for recovering but the effects were “relatively short-lived”.

She said people returning to work should continue to make the most of the good weather and make time for activities they enjoy, such as exercise, hobbies, gardening or music.

“Don’t get sucked back into a daily grind kind of existence – try to make sure that you’re making space for those activities that really give you pleasure and that allow you to recover from work and give you balance.

“In everyday life, if you can try and make your experiences outside of work as positive as possible and find things that you enjoy and give you pleasure, it will make you better at work as well.”

Dr Cooper Thomas said in order to feel engaged at work, people needed be mentally and physically available, feel safe in the work environment and consider their work meaningful.

She said some people might not want to return to work because of availability issues, such as anxieties about childcare, or safety issues, like an unpleasant workplace environment.

“So they have to consider these factors and they might need to change what they’re doing. But otherwise, just try to focus on the good.”

Dr Cooper Thomas said setting goals could be “very motivating” and people should think about what they wanted to achieve in the year ahead, such as getting a promotion or learning new skills.

“You may even want to look for a new job, but it’s a good time to assess what you’re trying to achieve over the next year.

“I think it can be very motivating to know your overall aims… Unless you’ve got a plan of where you’re going to get to then you’re just aimlessly wandering.”


* Feeling disoriented and taking a ‘go-slow’ attitude

* Little interest in work or focusing on your next holiday

* Feeling irritable, in a bad mood or suffering headaches


* Organise your work space and give your desk a personal touch

* Think about learning some new things or upskilling for 2017.

* Arrange a job review to discuss ways to stay fulfilled and challenged

* Ensure you have at least 15 minutes a day of personal or “me time”

* Arrange after-work activities to look forward to on evenings or weekends

* Look after yourself – get more sleep, exercise, and eat better


* Speak to your GP or someone you trust

* Call NZ Lifeline on 0800 543 354

* Call NZ Youthline on 0800 376 633

* Talk to the depression support line on 0800 111 757

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