Feeling The Back-To-Work Blues? Here’s How To Overcome Your Post-Holiday Syndrome

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Ever wondered why it’s so hard to get back into the rhythm after the holidays? It turns out post-holiday syndrome is a thing.

We all know that empty void after our Christmas decorations get torn down. After all the champagne bottles are emptied. And when social events slowly come to a halt.

This feeling is commonly known as “post-holiday syndrome” or “post-vacation hangover”. Common signs include loss of energy, anxiety, insomnia, and even depression. Here, we explore why exactly we feel this way and some tips to help ride out the blues a little faster.

What Causes Post-Holiday Syndrome?

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Though not enough attention is given to post-holiday syndrome, the condition is surprisingly prevalent. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 64% of people report being affected by holiday depression (1).

For some, it’s triggered by the physical, emotional, and financial stress of the holidays (2). For others, returning to work after the ‘most wonderful time of the year’ brings inevitable dread. So, let’s dive deeper into the mechanisms behind this glaring lack of post-holiday enthusiasm.

1. Sudden withdrawal of adrenaline

While research on the subject is still needed, experts suggest that the abrupt withdrawal of adrenaline may be a huge culprit (3). Highly stimulating events like holiday parties and family visits can gear up both our physical and psychological state. Hence, the adrenaline-drop period in which stress hormones withdraw may cause you to feel a bit under the weather.

2. The contrast effect

A contrast effect is a form of cognitive bias where the perception of differences is enhanced while adjusting between markedly different experiences (4). And since December is one big departure from your normal routine, the brain starts to exaggerate the realities of day-to-day life. This makes the return to our work routine seem disproportionately more anxiety-inducing than it actually is.

3. Emotional exhaustion

Not everyone’s holidays are merry and bright. For example, some of us are forced to put up a false facade of feigning happiness, which can be incredibly draining. Moreover, the burden of navigating difficult relationships during the holidays can contribute to post-holiday syndrome.

4. The Holiday Diet

Have you been feasting a couple of days straight from Christmas Eve to New Year’s Day? These processed and alcohol-fueled meals we thrived on during the holidays actually play a huge role in our moods.

Research has linked junk food to poor mental health (5) and alcohol is a widely known depressant (6). So unsurprisingly, we might not be feeling our best after a long period of overindulgence.

Four Tips To Overcome Post-Holiday Syndrome

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Post-holiday syndrome lasts differently for everyone. Regardless, reality doesn’t wait and life goes on. So, let’s look at a few tips to tp help us can simmer our #backtoworkblues.

1. Practice awareness

The first step to overcoming these post-holiday blues is to take action before things become overwhelming. Being aware of the symptoms helps you identify the strategies needed to get you back into the groove.

This process may also involve assessing what’s really stressing you out. Is it your work? Is your home cluttered? Or are there some emotional hurdles happening at home? Make a list, write down things you can control, and work through them one at a time.

2. Go back to basics

You don’t have to overdo exercise or compensate for calories simply because you’ve been indulging over the holidays. All you have to do is go back to basics.

Easing into a routine is essential for getting back on track. Experts recommend small lifestyle cornerstones to boost mood and manage symptoms of depression. So, re-establish a simple sleep schedule, exercise regime, and nutrient-dense diet.

3. Incorporate fun activities

An empty calendar might look slightly depressing after all the holiday parties peter out. Hence, to keep the workweek slog bearable, fill up your planner with activities you enjoy.

Doing so keeps the contrast effect at bay and brightens the post-holiday gloom. Making time for people and hobbies you love during the weekends can also provide a much-needed boost.

4. Practice self-compassion

Lastly, cut yourself some slack. There’s no point beating yourself up for feeling down. We deserved that hard-earned break. And we need time to re-establish our footing after a long holiday. However, if symptoms of anxiety and sadness persist, consider consulting a mental health professional.


No matter how you spent your holidays, it’s normal to feel sadness and anxiety after these times of cheer. The post-holiday syndrome is indeed a mixture of recovering from stimulating events, re-adjusting to reality, and grieving that good times are over.

Therefore, giving our minds and bodies time to reset will help us cope with the bleakness of January. And this ultimately lies in working with our seasonal rhythms, instead of fighting these difficult feelings.

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  1. The National Alliance on Mental Illness | Holiday Blues

  2. Holiday Stress: How to Cope

  3. Post-Adrenaline Blues | Psychology Today

  4. The Contrast Effect: When Comparison Enhances Differences – Effectiviology

  5. Association between junk food consumption and mental health

  6. Is Alcohol A Depressant?

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