Home Mental Health & Well-Being How to Beat the Post-Holiday Blues, According to a Psychologist

How to Beat the Post-Holiday Blues, According to a Psychologist

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With 93% of people admitting being on holiday improves their well-being and mental health, it’s easy to see why many of us may feel down after a trip abroad. 

As we head into peak travel season, many of us will be returning from getaways and finding the adjustment to daily life difficult. But how can we beat the blues, and what causes them?

Psychologist and co-founder of UK Therapy Rooms, Dr Daniel Glazer, has shared tips to beat holiday blues and revealed the science behind this feeling and what it could signal for us.

Are the post-holiday blues real?

According to Dr Daniel Glazer: “The holiday blues isn’t a scientific or medical term or diagnosis, but certainly many people experience low mood and anxiety when returning from holiday or during a holiday season.

“This is confirmed by surveys showing that many people feel down after a holiday – with 57% of us experiencing post-holiday blues. 

“How holiday blues can present as feelings of sadness and low mood around the end of a holiday, but it’s also possible for these to present as anxiety and irritability around returning to day-to-day life. This can impact sleep, appetite, motivation and energy levels.”

Why do we get the post-holiday blues?

Glazer doesn’t believe there is “one way”; there are likely to be several factors. 

Firstly, heading abroad can create opportunities to release ourselves from the stress of everyday life, routine and day-to-day issues. When we return to this, it can be “a sign that something in life needs attending to”

Secondly, it can be a connection to “more existential anxieties” as the start and end of something often hold emotional tension.

“At the beginning of a holiday, we are full of anticipation, and by the end, it often feels that time has gone too quickly. A holiday puts us in touch with a reality that everything ends, and it can be hard to return to everyday life with that sense of time passing at the forefront of our minds.”

Five ways to beat the holiday blues

Dr Daniel Glazer explains: “If the holiday blues shows itself more as anxiety and irritability, then it can be helpful to use your usual strategies to manage difficult feelings such as exercise, meditation, doing something creative or being in nature.”

With this in mind, UK Therapy Rooms has outlined five ideas for activities which can help beat the holiday blues.

Log your memories

One of the most rewarding elements of a holiday is the memories we bring back with us. Travelling can offer both life-changing experiences and even simple moments of bliss.

Scrapbooking, journaling or creating a photo album is a great way to reflect and reminisce on these moments. Crafts like scrapbooking and journaling can provide cognitive benefits, improving memory and relieving stress. 

If you’re not into crafts, another option is simply uploading your memories to social media. This will allow you to show gratitude for your experiences while acting as a form of self-expression and relationship-building.

However, it’s well worth noting that balance is important here, and time online, especially using social media, should be limited both in length and to content that fulfils you. 

Bring your experiences home with you 

Travelling is a great opportunity to explore new experiences, from hobbies to learning a language or tasting fresh foods – but we often forget about these as soon as we step off the plane. But there can be enormous mental health benefits to learning new things.

Learning a new skill helps to boost confidence and gives a sense of purpose, and studies have found people engaged in learning report feeling better about themselves and have a greater ability to cope with stress.

Bringing home some of your newfound skills, hobbies, or experiences can also help you to look back fondly on your time away. Consider continuing to learn the local language of the place you visited, learning to cook your favourite dish from your time away or continuing with any hobbies you may have tried, such as water sports or crafts.  

Spend time with loved ones

For some people, heading away abroad is a perfect opportunity to meet new people and build connections with others. Humans are social animals, used to being part of groups, so time spent with others can be key to our well-being. 

It’s been reported that direct person-to-person contact triggers parts of our nervous system that release a “cocktail” of neurotransmitters tasked with regulating our response to stress and anxiety.

If you’ve returned from a holiday and feel lonely or isolated on your return, make sure to plan in time with friends and family. It’s also a great opportunity to share your experiences and show gratitude for your time away. 

Avoid unhealthy habits 

When we go away, we often change our habits entirely, not always for the better. Many people stay up late, drink more and abandon routines. 

When you return, it’s important to be mindful about how much you drink, especially if you’re experiencing a low mood, given that alcohol is a depressant. Consider swapping to mocktails and finding low or no-alcohol drinks you genuinely enjoy to ensure you form a healthy habit. 

Alongside this, when we’re in holiday mode, plenty of us also stay up later than normal and go without as much sleep. But on our return, it cannot be easy to return to our normal routine. This can be exasperated if you’re also experiencing jet lag. 

However, sleep is essential for our well-being, with one study finding inadequate sleep was associated with significantly increased odds of frequent mental distress. Therefore, try to return to routine as soon as possible and use pre-bedtime relaxation techniques to ensure you can drift off easier. 

Get outside and exercise 

One extremely positive benefit of our time away is our time outdoors and within nature. An enormous list of benefits to spending time in nature: it can lower blood pressure and stress hormone levels, reduce nervous system arousal, enhance immune system function, increase self-esteem, reduce anxiety, and improve mood.

And the great news is that we only need 2 hours a week spent in nature, which can be either as one chunk or spread out – the benefits remain the same according to studies

Therefore, on your return, head outside to experience some natural light, nature and fresh air. This can be anything from walking and gardening to more active exercise like cycling or running.

How to know when it’s something more serious

While the holiday blues isn’t uncommon, it’s always best to be mindful if your symptoms could indicate something more serious.

Dr Daniel Glazer notes: “If these feelings interfere with functioning such as they impact significantly on sleep, appetite, work, relationships, then that would be a time to seek help.”

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