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Managing Post Holiday Anxiety

Group on a hike

For many of us, an annual holiday and break from work is a significant milestone in our working year. It is a key event that we work towards and a much-needed opportunity to escape every day working life, and to rest and recharge. Holidays are typically perceived as a time for a physical and mental break; however, the reality for some people is quite different.

In recent times, we have heard people say that they have struggled to switch off from work while on holiday. In fact, some people have reported that they tend to spend this precious time worrying, preoccupied by thoughts of work, such as what lies ahead of them on their return: a difficult project, client, colleague or relationship. All of which results in anxiety, fearfulness and distress, leaving them simply incapable of fully enjoying their break.

As a society, we are much more aware of the prevalence and impact of anxiety conditions post-pandemic. In 2022, Irish Life Health conducted a Health of the Nation Survey and found that 40% of the respondents were experiencing moderate to severe levels of stress, anxiety, and depression.

There are various triggers for anxiety such as finances, work, health and social relationships. The severity of symptoms can range from mild nervousness and apprehension to intense, persistent fear of everyday situations. On a positive note, there are many ways for people to manage their personal anxiety which will enable them to fully switch off and detach from work when on holidays.

Approaches and recommendations will vary on each person’s unique circumstances and severity of symptoms. If someone is struggling to function, finding it difficult to deal with relative levels of stress and struggling to manage strong emotions, they should speak to their doctor and link in with a counsellor.  A combination of talking therapies such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), and GP input can be effective in the treatment of more intense levels of anxiety.

What we have seen work well with our corporate clients is the delivery of programmes on topics such as anxiety management techniques; a key focus being the introduction of concepts such as CBT and thought management. Such programmes explain that how we think can affect our feelings, physiology, and behaviour.

We each have unique patterns of thinking ranging from sometimes logical and rational to more exaggerated and emotionally charged to, at times, catastrophic. These thinking styles can be quite faulty and misleading. They can drive our anxiety and fears as if they are literal truths, producing stress hormones that cause increased heart rate, shortness of breath and even further fearful thoughts. Anxious thoughts can lead us into a vicious cycle; and the key to unlocking this pattern is to objectify thoughts and keep a logical, rational mindset. By reframing unhelpful thoughts, we can keep our physiology calm and achieve a more relaxed emotional state.  CBT exercises are particularly helpful and can be done on the beach, in a café or anywhere you choose!

Managing Anxiety during your Holidays:

If you are worried about your return to work after a holiday, try the following tips:

Journal your thoughts and feelings

Understand what is triggering your anxiety

Break down your worries as this can help to make issues more manageable

Have a plan for how you tackle your workload and worrying situations

Apply a problem-solving approach to anxiety-provoking tasks that might be worrying you

Break down work-related tasks into manageable steps so they don’t feel so overwhelming.

Ask for help from managers and colleagues. Don’t avoid: when we avoid situations, we usually strengthen our belief that we are not able to deal with the feared situation (e.g., client presentation), which makes the next challenge more difficult to engage with. So instead, address your concerns by looking for solutions and remedies where possible

Breathe through the stress and anxiety at work: When a person feels anxious it can be helpful to practice controlled breathing techniques, which serve to reduce levels of stress hormones and help us to feel calm. There are lots of great exercises online which can be practised  anywhere at any time.

Focus on sleep: We frequently deliver programmes on sleep for our corporate clients. As we know, sleep is so important for our mental and physical wellbeing. It is easier to manage our emotions and stress when rested. Yet, a racing, worried mind can often keep us awake at night and is a prime characteristic of anxiety.

Find ways to wind down in the evening to prepare for sleep. This might involve avoiding screens and stimulation for a few hours before bed. Instead, enjoy meditation, reading or a bath; anything that helps you prepare to relax. Reassure your mind that stress and anxiety are temporary, and you will get through this time.

Have a Self-Care Plan: Take a walk, exercise or practice meditation – At Irish Life we have a free exercise and wellness app called MyLife available for everyone to join. It is an online community where users get rewarded for participating in walking challenges and achieving self-care goals. We have seen a significant uptake in the MyLife app with a growing community of over 180,000 users, as employees look for more targeted and individual support in the workplace. Make sure to ease back with a self-care plan that works for you and look for the types of support that suit your individual needs.
 
Connect & Ask for Help: If you feel the anxiety, you are experiencing is too difficult to manage by yourself, there is great support and treatments available. We suggest that you reach out to your support networks such as family, friends, and those in the medical community.
 
Contact your dedicated Irish Life Account Manager or Wellbeing Consultant or email us at wellness@irishlife.ie to find out how we can help.

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