• drelainesmith

Returning to work after Christmas 

The festive period is often filled with emotion, alcohol, lack of routine and escape from the reality of work.

A lot of people feel anxious or negative about returning to work after the holidays.

Common anxieties are around:

• Something awful waiting in email inbox

• Not being good enough at job

• Disliking job

• Getting family back into routine

• Difficulties with boss/colleagues

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that in 2018, 57% of work absences were accounted for by stress, anxiety and depression. This means you are not alone with how you feel.

Coping with the return to work:

• Notice your thoughts and feelings and acknowledge them. By trying to deny or push them away, they actually grow bigger. It can be helpful to say to yourself 'I notice I am having the thought that.....'. This creates some distance from distressing thoughts.

• Set aside a time to look at your emails. Categorise them as: read later, delete, action required

• Speak to someone you trust about how you feel. The Mind website has a great document called the Wellness Action Plan which can help people to communicate with their employers, if you choose to do so.

• Pay close attention to your routine: try to reestablish your regular sleeping and eating habits within the first week back.

• Take a break at work. We are not robots and we do not work effectively without an actual break from tasks. Even just getting up and stretching, or a walk to the photocopier and back can be beneficial. Ideally though, a ten minute walk outside or break from your desk will be the best investment of your time.

• Make sure you get a lunch break.

• Stay hydrated. Dehydration causes a significant decline in cognitive ability.

• Think about your caffeine intake, as it can increase feelings of anxiety.

• Create a small soothing kit for yourself at work. There are lots of ideas about this online. Tapping into your senses is a really powerful way of managing anxiety in the moment.

• Show yourself the love and kindness that you would a close friend - what advice would you give them?

• If your feelings of anxiety or low mood persist, it is recommended that you visit your GP

• Set yourself very small goals for your first day back.

Often the thought of returning to work is worse than the reality. However, your feelings are valid regardless. Paying attention to your feelings is the key to preventing their growth and associated feelings of distress.

I hope this helps in your transition back to work in 2020.

Thank you,


Dr Elaine Smith

Clinical Psychologist


Corstorphine Psychology Services

3 Coates Place, Edinburgh, EH3 7AA

0131 261 9191

Useful Numbers

Edinburgh Crisis Centre (24hrs)

0808 801 0414

07974 429 075 (text)

Childline 0800 1111

Breathing Space 0800 83 85 87