The Return To Work Hangover

Most of us have just returned from some form of a holiday (or time off). This year’s holiday looked very different than the previous years with restrictions, uncertainty and less options to choose from for many. Regardless of what it looked like, returning to work can be a struggle for many to find where to start and where all of our motivation is hiding!

For some, we were itching to get back to work. The kids/partner/mother-in-law were driving us crazy or we were stuck in isolation and now craving some structure and work back into our day. We may even love what we do so getting back to work meant getting back to our passion and what drives us.

For others, returning to work is like having a hangover that lasts for days, or even weeks! The only thing that got us through December was knowing we were taking a break and now that we are back, it’s all the same as when we left. The same people, the same problems and the same boredom. The kids, friends and colleagues might still be on holidays and the days are the perfect weather for us to be doing anything other than being at work. There isn’t enough work around to occupy our mind or to make us busy enough to put our head down and plough through. It might be really busy but frankly we couldn’t care less and our motivation hasn’t returned to work with us.


The build up to any holiday or break from work helps to trigger the ‘happiness’ chemicals in our mind. It is these chemicals, such as dopamine, that have us looking forward to the break. In pre-COVID times, researchers suggested that having a trip in planning, regardless of how far away it is, contributes to our overall happiness and motivation levels. In COVID times, the desire to plan a trip with so many uncertainties can be frustrating with more questions than answers, triggering anxiety in some people. 

So how do we shake this ‘return to work’ hangover? 

Here are 3 tips to help us rediscover our mojo.

  • Focus on You- If January is a quiet month for you at work, use the time to focus on your own personal development. This is usually the first thing that gets pushed aside when the ‘busy’ arrives and it also tends to be that thing that we know we should do but never really get around to it.Learning something new sets of the same happiness chemical dopamine that travel does. It also creates new connections and neurons making our brain pathways stronger. The more we learn, the more myelin is produced which aids us in learning at faster speed.What is something that you could do/read/listen to that would lead to you learning something new or growing?
  • Understand your Purpose- If work is not ‘floating your boat’ and getting you excited, think back to what is the purpose and role that you play at work? What is the purpose of the company you work for? What is the purpose of the industry? What human need is being satisfied by what you do? What value do you add? Why are you choosing to work there and do your job? What would it take in order for you to really enjoy what you are currently doing? Knowing the ‘y’ behind what we do changes our motivation levels. If work is not making you happy, own it and make the necessary changes to either your job or your mindset.
  • Bring the Holiday to You!- When for whatever reason, we can’t holiday or be where we want to be, is there a chance to plan what we would be doing on holidays but returning to our own bed each night. Or can we even do it in our own home? What is it that you like to do on holidays? If it’s spend the day on the beach, is there a beach within distance from your house? Could you check out a new beach that you might not have been to before? If you like to go on adventures, is there a bush trail nearby that you haven’t walked yet? Or an adventure centre that you could go to on the weekend? Do you like to just chill, sit back and read a book over a cocktail or a cup of tea? Set the scene in your own house and make it happen. Many of the towns or cities that we live in attract some type of tourist at some stage. Plan to be a tourist in your own town on the evenings/weekends or be away on holidays in your own house! 

The dopamine is always there inside our brain ready to be triggered. We have a choice, we can allow the current situations and the feeling of the ‘return to work’ hangover consume our energy levels and determine out mindset, or we can step up and own our ability to trigger our own happiness chemical, dopamine.

What’s your choice?

Did you enjoy this article? Read more from Amy here..


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