The New Year blues: why your return to work has you feeling down

Everyone’s chorusing ‘new year, new me’, but you feel as though you didn’t get the memo. Was it one too many mince pies or G+Ts over the festive season or is that feeling that you can’t seem to shake something more? If you’ve only been back in the office a couple of days and you’re already feeling down; you’re not alone. The new year marks a moment of change and transformation, but when the clock strikes 12, that pressure can become all too much. Feeling blue at the beginning of the new year is a surprisingly usual phenomenon, you’ve spent the past days enjoying the festivities, getting drunk, and passing out on the couch. What’s not to love? And whether it’s the pressure of facing up to last year’s failures and unachieved goals or the lofty ambitions you’ve set for the year to come, it’s normal to be feeling a bit down in the dumps (especially when you’re replacing over-indulgence at home with over-working in the office.) So, what can you do about it?

Workplace wellbeing is becoming more and more important than ever before, and the businesses of the future will be the ones that show that they care. 1 in 6.8 people experience mental health problems in the workplace and evidence suggests that 12.7% of all sickness absence days can be attributed to mental health problems. By tackling issues with mental health within the workplace, employers have the chance to reduce absences and ensure staff are working productively. This has a massive impact on how cohesive the business is and how much profit they’re making. Mental health within the workplace can only be solved by employees working in unison with the wellbeing practices of their employer.
First of all, since we’re in the spirit of making resolutions and setting goals for the year ahead, take some time to check in with where you are right now. You can’t expect to reach your future goals if you aren’t honest with your current situation. If you’re not feeling great mentally, the first thing you should do is take responsibility for how you’re spending your downtime outside of work. If you’re constantly eating junk and plonking yourself in front of the telly every night to watch Eastenders, then drink to the point of no return every weekend, of course, you aren’t going to feel your best… Start small, maybe switch out one unhealthy meal per week for something more balanced and substantial. You can add in healthier meals as you get used to these small changes. If your relationship with alcohol is becoming unhealthy, you could even go cold turkey and try doing Dry January. There are numerous ways to improve your mental health that start at home, you just need to take ownership of them.
The second step requires a bit of vulnerability. We recommend going to your employer and asking what kind of mental health support systems they have in place if they haven’t already made you aware of them. Most companies these days will follow internal processes or even hire external occupational health services that manage the wellbeing of their employees. They may offer access to mental health screening and CBT to manage the problem if necessary; this not only alerts the employer that you’re not feeling 100% but also allows you to get help for any condition that you may be suffering from.
Third, you should figure out how the workplace culture makes you feel. Working in an environment that doesn’t care about employee wellbeing or progression would be disastrous for anyone’s mental health; couple that with pre-existing mental health problems or stress in your personal life and you have a recipe for being absolutely miserable. Work out what you want out of your job and where possible, negotiate! Many employers are being advised to be more flexible in terms of work arrangements for the benefit of employee mental health. This has been normalised due to the pandemic home-working orders. Be careful though if you’re still having nightmares about that long period of time of working at home, looking slightly unhinged while wearing pajamas for the third day in a row- hybrid working probably won’t be for you. The employer should offer different arrangements to suit each of their employees where feasible.

Article compiled by Latus Health, Hull. Latus Health offers a full spectrum of occupational health services and its key mission is to improve health and wellbeing for companies and their employees; doing so in a disruptive and sustainable way. They have recently launched the first and only fully-remote digital health program- Yodha. The app allows employees to access all facets of health and wellbeing, including mental health, and do so at their own pace.

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