What a summer. Like many Australians, my holidays were dominated by news of raging bushfires, fears for loved ones, grief for the loss of wildlife, and smoke-filled town and cities. Memories of sapphire skies and glittering seas or the lemony scent of eucalyptus forests on a still, cool morning seemed almost surreal.
It stands to reason quite a few of us were feeling flat when returning to work. Perhaps flatter than usual. According to Beyond Blue adviser Michael Baigent, post-holiday blues are normal. It’s hardly surprising when the pleasurable things that we’ve found time to enjoy, despite everything, have been suddenly replaced with routine. For some, it might even seem as if the holidays never happened. The good news is that the blues will fade after a while – and it turns out there are things we can all do to make the adjustment easier.
Life coach Shannah Kennedy believes the problem for many people is that their holiday is the only thing they have got to look forward to; once it’s over they can feel hopeless. But a return from holiday is an ideal opportunity to make changes in your life, using your holiday energy to establish new patterns. ‘You can’t just wait another year for the next holiday. It’s about learning to focus on the positive,’ she says.
Look out for new events and projects that will keep you interested and motivated. Kennedy advises making a list of activities that you enjoy; then schedule them and follow through so you have things to look forward to instead of falling back into tired routines.
The stories of humanity rising from disaster made this summer bittersweet and special.
That might mean connecting socially more often – going out dancing, having people over for dinner, bushwalking or camping with friends. For the introverts among us (hands up here!) it could be finding the time to visit galleries, catching up with a small group of friends, or planning a weekend away with family. Including plenty of exercise is important too, as it boosts your endorphins and promotes feelings of calm. Meditation and mindfulness activities can help as well.
Activities that resemble holiday pastimes are another possibility. For instance, visiting the pool is a good alternative to lying on the beach. But you want it to be fun and relaxing rather than an exercise chore (it’s a holiday vibe you’re after, remember?), so maybe a spa session followed by a catch-up with a friend in the café would be better than a kilometre of laps.
I like having a tangible reminder of a holiday – a collection of photographs, driftwood or sea glass. For me, this summer, it’s an oyster shell worn silky and thin with time, now sitting on my desk. Holding it recalls a sense of holiday serenity.
Through fundraising efforts or practical support, focusing on others’ needs helps create connection, and leads to lower stress and anxiety, improving our physical and emotional health.
But while I’ll be taking some of the experts’ advice, I’m (uncharacteristically) trying to keep some perspective too. My holiday wasn’t perfect. I never found time to make the raspberry jam I’d planned to make, or to catch up with all the people I love – and I didn’t achieve a state of perfect tranquility. It’s hard settling back.
One thing I won’t forget, though, is the connectedness so many people experienced as they put their own needs aside, if only for a while, to help others. Over summer, people lost homes, loved ones and livelihoods. The stories of humanity rising from disaster, of communities – writers, firefighters, migrant groups, townspeople, neighbours, utter strangers – pulling together to donate goods, feed starving wildlife, raise money or provide meals made this summer bittersweet and special.
As grief-stricken as I often was, these events also give us a chance to make a difference, however small. Through fundraising efforts or practical support, focusing on others’ needs helps create connection, and leads to lower stress and anxiety, improving our physical and emotional health. I’m aiming to be less self-absorbed this year, and instead build doing something for others into my life. And I’m going to make that raspberry jam too.