Most of us look forward to time off or a vacation. After all we have worked hard to earn it.  

It also takes most people a few days to get back in to the swing of things because your brain’s attention and therefore thoughts have been focussed on things like “do we hit the beach before or after lunch?” or “do I get up at 8 or 9am today?” or “what book will I read today” or “do I want to go sale shopping or just potter around the house today?”.  

So, it is no surprise we may feel a little flat when our time off or holiday comes to an end. 

At times, though, this flatness or lack of mojo may feel more like intense dread and we find ourselves questioning whether our work is the problem.

Here are six questions to ask yourself to help determine whether your transition woes are typical – or might instead signal the need for a career change:

1. How long was your break?

The longer you are away from work the more you get used to the new routine (e.g., afternoon naps, sleeping in, perhaps not having a routine). So going back to your “work” routine can take some time to re-adjust to.  However for shorter breaks (e.g., a week or less) if you are experiencing outright dread that may indicate you need more time out or experiencing Burnout (take our free assessment here).

2. Do you feel dread only after holidays? Or weekends to?

Feeling some sense of dread after a longer vacation is pretty standard. However if you feel this at the end of most weekends, this is a red flag. Your weekends are there as a bit of reset (physically and mentally) and not meant to a complete checking out of life from something you dread or resent.

Not effectively managing stress can be a factor here too.  Stress seems to be part of our day to day lives and hard to avoid.  Did you know that avoiding feelings of stress can actually increase the experience of stress?  Try this FREE video Series to learn how to manage stress and get even more done.

3. How long did you stop thinking about work on your holiday?

It is to be expected that it may take you a few days to transition from “work-mind” to “holiday-mind” regardless of how you feel about your work.

However if you spend most of your break thinking or talking about work challenges, or find you can’t keep away from your emails because work is always on your mind, you need to take notice.

Mindfulness has proven to help people to notice when their mind is focusing on the negative and re-set. If Mindfulness isn’t your thing try this and it’s lots of fun!

4. When do you start noticing feeling flat or dread?

Feeling flat or dread on the last day of your break is pretty standard.  A week before is not.  It also means you are not getting to enjoy your break!

At the end of my career in recruitment I used to feel dread every Sunday night. I think I was also burnout. When I left my last job in recruitment and transitioned to become a Psychologist in the Workplace, I no longer dreaded Monday, in fact I now look forward to it.  Dreading returning to work most weekends, is not okay.

5. Where is this feeling of dread coming from?

Is something lacking in your job where you don’t feel challenged or have a sense of purpose? If this is you, this 3 Circle Activity may help you redesign your job or career without having to find a new one.

Or is it something negative in your workplace like ongoing conflict, unreasonable pressure, bullying or ethical issues? This may only require a change of workplace not entire industry or career. This free Team Trust survey may help you identify any gaps in your team or work environment.

If you’re dreading work for both reasons, exploring a genuine career change may be in order.

6. How would you compare your meaning of work other aspects in your life?

Our work is an important part of our lives, as well as paying the bills it can provide a great source of meaning and purpose.  Most of us find time with family and friends also meaningful.

So returning to work sometimes can feel less meaningful, if you get most of your meaning and purpose from time outside work.  It doesn’t have to always be like this.  Wellbeing is achieved by receiving meaning from all 5 life-domains which are personal, career, family, community, and spiritual.

If you feel you need a bit of reset around your values from a work perspective and what is more broadly important to you, try doing this activity Values at Work.

Final Thoughts

Take notice of whether you feelings of dread are limited to work.  If you have noticed a lack of enthusiasm and motivation in most of your life domains that has changed recently this may indicate a mental health need, and I would encourage you to speak to your GP or doctor about a referral to a counsellor.

Can I say that most people go through periods in their life when they feel less engaged by their work.  I have been there myself.  I have also felt trapped, where I was the key income provider and felt I had no choice but to soldier on. If this is you, I would recommend one or both of these:

  1. Get a long term plan done that could allow a transition into something new that is considered and doesn’t break the bank.
  1. Add additional sources of meaning to other domains of your life. My mum used to say this to me all the time “get a hobby”. And you know she was right, it works.  Or go and learn something new. There are so many free courses out there.  Have you seen Edx? It is amazing!

Or lastly, get a Career Coach who can also provide support in all domains of your life. These individuals can help you formulate positive next steps for redesigning your current job or moving towards a new career, and can hold you accountable during the process.  My Program Here and Free Career Kick Start Guide Here. 

That way your next return from break can be filled with more enthusiasm and hope for the year ahead.

I hope this was of value

Margie Ireland

Passionate about People and their Work