The opportunity behind the post-holiday blues
A lot is written at this time of year about common difficulties encountered when trying to re-adjust to work life and routine after a summer holiday. Often when people talk about what they enjoyed during the summer, it sounds like there was a much greater sense of freedom compared to life before or after the break: freedom to organise the day or not, freedom to dress, eat, sleep how we want; freedom to ‘be’ and freedom to have some (even small) adventures.
A lot of what is written and talked about this week is about our initial difficulty in giving up this new-found or rekindled sense of freedom and to fit back into the life of responsibilities; bills will have to be paid, important issues require attention and cause worry. The weather is changing; soon the days will be shorter, with less light and colder temperatures. It seems all is going downhill from here.
Yet, the fact that freedom (even in small doses, enjoyed at home) gave us pleasure and helped re-charge our physical and mental batteries suggests that there is something which we do not sufficiently build into our daily lives and which we are in danger of burying until the next extended summer break. For some of us the clues of important and healthier life-style choices were there during the summer, yet we choose to ignore them. Surely fitting them in would mean significant change and take time, time we do not have? Just the thought of more unpredictable change causes stress in some. Surely freedom does not pay a mortgage or school fees or put food on the table?!
Another message of the summer break for many is that of loss; that somehow our lives took turns which let away from our hopes and dreams, which we so briefly re-engaged with during the summer.
For some spending more time with partners, friends and families has also shown how much some of us have changed; that we are less compatible now than in the past, and that only leading a busy life back at work enables us to live together as differences are more blurred and easier to ignore.
If we did spend just a little time to take stock and hold onto any strong emotions we may have felt during the break – like freedom, joy, anxiety over going back, or relational difficulties with those close to us – and listened to the message that is trying to come through, then we may sense and engage with the opportunity for change. The choice to make some positive change, however fast or slow, however large or small, however painful it may be initially.
That way, when the next summer break comes along, it will not necessarily feel like a repeat of previous years, but we can continue where we left off and move on further beyond where we are at now.