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5 ways to beat the back-to-work blues

Happy man at work in front of his laptop

With the holidays behind most of us and a new work year stretching ahead, Healthy Food Guide founding editor Niki Bezzant shares five ways to ease into the transition and avoid the ‘back-to-work-blues’.

Getting ‘back to work’ might be a bit different for many of us in 2021. But whether you’re heading into the office; back to the shop floor or just to your spare bedroom, the headspace required for hitting the ground running for a new work year can be a challenge, especially in times of extra added uncertainty. If you’re about to get into another working year, here are some tips for a smooth and energising transition.

1 Start as you mean to go on

When you’ve been away from work for a while, you’ve had the chance to get out of some of the less healthy workplace habits you might have had before. This is a great opportunity! Don’t slip back into to those old habits. Instead, try consciously making a few simple changes this year; changes that might help you be healthier and feel better by the time the end of the year comes around. Spend a few minutes, before you head back to work, thinking about what these might be. Write them down, if you like. Keep them in your head when you arrive back at work, and then…

2 Form some new healthy habits

Now is your chance to put a health plan into action. Whether it’s taking a vegetable snack box for the office fridge at the start of the week, setting a timer in your calendar to stand up and stretch, or arranging to meet a favourite workmate for a regular uplifting coffee/tea break (in person or online) pick one or two simple things you think you’ll be able to sustain, and get started.

3 Overhaul your environment

Our environment can be a powerful force – for bad or good – on our behaviour. Use the power for good by making a few small changes. Maybe you can sort out your home or work office to allow you to work part of the day standing? (a stack of books or a laptop stand can work well here).

Or maybe you can schedule a regular meeting as a ‘walk and talk’? Try putting a fruit platter somewhere central in your office; or replace the drinks machine in the staff room with a free water station.

You can also use the ‘out of sight, out of mind’ principle to help with healthy eating, if you’re working at home: put the treat foods in sealed, opaque containers and banish them to high, back shelves in the kitchen.

It’s surprising how getting those things out of your eye line can reduce the non-hungry snacking.

4 Get your workmates on board to beat the blues

The start of the year is a great time to get together with your workmates and come up with some group strategies and plans for building wellbeing and keeping the blues at bay. Is it a quick weekly session of group stretching or yoga?

A Zoom mindfulness workshop? A group shared lunch where everyone brings a healthy dish? Have a quick meeting and come up with some common goals together so you can encourage each other as the year goes on.

5 Plan something to look forward to, for mental well-being

I have a friend who plans and books her family’s entire year of holidays on 1 January, so she has lots of things to look forward to.

While we might not feel confident enough to do a year’s worth of planning under current circumstances, a bit of short-term planning for small, fun things to look forward to is not a bad idea.

Even if it’s just a long weekend or a fun Friday lunch, events to break up the weeks and months and look forward to can keep us feeling positive and excited.

You can make this even more effective for increasing your well-being by choosing an event or activity you’ve never tried before.  Attempting something new has been shown to reduce the risk of cognitive decline, especially when there’s a social element to the activity.

So why not try learning to dance, taking that writing course, or volunteering for a charity you support?  Your brain will love you for it.

First published: Jan 2021

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