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Anxiety or return syndrome?

Also for this year the holidays are over. It’s time to go back to work, to everyday worries, to stress, to traffic, to discussions with colleagues, to routine … And maybe, even before you have unpacked, you already feel a bad mood creeping in, you feel tired, unwilling, out form and with a slight headache … right? If so, you could suffer from the so-called “re-entry syndrome” which, although it is not a real pathology, is a condition that many Italians seem to suffer. It seems that this disorder, which the Americans called Post Vacation Blues, affects 33% of people, at least according to a survey conducted by an online weekly [1]. The truth is that we do not have more precise estimates, also because the re-entry syndrome is not recognized by official psychiatry and therefore there is not enough literature to expose certain data on the phenomenon. In the classical psychological view, it is a question of a common adaptation syndrome, that is, an organism’s response to the stress of having to readjust to the habits of life that had been abandoned during the holidays.

The benefits of vacations

Of course, holidays do not always meet our expectations, some unforeseen circumstances can cause stress, conflicts with one’s partner and family, physical discomfort, but, in most cases, on holiday you feel better, less stressed, more active and this also seems to be demonstrated by a study involving German managers who were forced to take a short-term holiday, documenting the reduction of stress and physical and mental fatigue and the increase in their resistance and sensation of welfare [2]. Other studies have shown a significant increase in the incidence of myocardial infraction in men at high cardiovascular risk who have never taken a vacation compared to those who have done it regularly [3].

How does the re-entry syndrome manifest itself?

The troubles experienced coming from a vacation, above all, the perspective of having to return to the usual rhythms of daily life are: fatigue, melancholy, mood swings, sleep disorders, as well as muscle pain, nausea, tachycardia, excessive sweating and lost appetite. The prevalence of the single symptom is subjective and in general the picture is more intense the more one has the perception of working in a hostile or otherwise non-congenial environment. Those who do a gratifying or rewarding job in economic terms or in terms of relationships with colleagues, are generally less likely to develop problems when they return from vacation.

How to fight these feelings?

Ok, we understood that going on a vacation is useful for our health and that the return to daily activities, on the contrary, can make us sick. What can we then do to combat the stress derived from returning to our daily routine? Here are some practical suggestions:

  • Try to sleep for a sufficiently enough time: going from 8-10 hours of sleep during the holidays to 6-7 hours on return may be traumatic. Recover gradually, perhaps taking 2-3 days to stay home and get used to the new rhythm. Also try to sleep in dark and silent environments, giving up tablets and mobile phones before going to sleep.
  • Practicing a light physical activity, it takes only half an hour of walking a day or, if you prefer, you can devote yourself to yoga, pilates and in general to gentle gymnastics. Avoid intense physical activity in the evening, it may disturb regular rest.
  • Prefer a light and regular diet, preferring fruit, vegetables, legumes and cereals, reducing the consumption of red meat and fat. Remember, moreover, the always valid advice to drink a lot of water to maintain a correct state of hydration of the body.
  • To dedicate oneself to a hobby, possibly relaxing, giving space to the imagination: painting, decoration, knitting, crochet, decoupage, etc.
  • Spending time outdoors. This will help the body to regulate the sleep / wake rhythm.
  • Try to be systematic: if you have left unfinished work before going on vacation, make a list of all that needs to be addressed when you return. This will help to organize time and not be overwhelmed by anxiety.
  • Look at the positive side of the return, we think of September as a month to devote ourselves to new interests, to try something new, to read books when the days will be shorter!
  • Plan a weekend out of town, even for a short trip. It will help in detaching from the vacation mode and will promote relaxation.
  • Exit the routine. Often what really stresses us about our working life is the habit. We try to change the path to go to work, getting used to get up a few minutes before to prepare a different breakfast, or in addition, try, if possible, to change the place where you work (even just the office).

But there’s more … or some little trick to keep that state of relaxation and well-being that has accompanied us during the vacation [1]:

  • Stay in a quiet environment for a few minutes before starting work.
  • Breathe slowly and thoroughly for at least 5 consecutive times before starting heavy or demanding work.
  • At the end of this task reward give yourself a simple reward: your favorite dish, a massage session, a walk in a pleasant place or even a simple chocolate.
  • Take a break mid-morning or mid-afternoon using it to stay in touch with a friend or partner.
  • Use a ritual to be repeated at the end of the working day: a walk, listening to your favorite music, etc.
Come on, let’s do it together!

To sum up our discussion, we can say that even if there is no unanimous agreement on the existence of the “re-entry syndrome”, the fact of feeling tired or disheartened is common to many (regardless of the numeric data itself ). In fact, there are many people who experience one or more of the symptoms we mentioned in this article when we return from a vacation. So we try to put in place the simple rules and, if the situation should be too hard to deal with, we ask for help from our general practitioner who will give us a hand to better tackle any major difficulties.

 

Bibliography

[1] study conducted with WOA methodology (Web Opinion Analysis) on about 3500 Italians, men and women, through an online monitoring on the main social networks, forums and digital communities to raise anxieties and fears about returning to the city (from In a bottle, 08.24.2018)

[2] Short Vacation Improves Stress-Level and Well-Being in German-Speaking Middle-Managers-A Randomized Controlled Trial .; Blank C, Gatterer K, Leichtfried V, Pollhammer D, Mair-Raggautz M, Duschek S, Humpeler, and Schobersberger W. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2018 Jan 13; 15 (1). pii: E130. doi: 10.3390 / ijerph15010130.

[3] 1: Gump BB, Matthews KA. Are vacations good for your health? The 9-year mortality experience after the multiple risk factor intervention trial. Psychosom Med. 2000 Sep-Oct; 62 (5): 608-12.

[4] Dr. M.L. Combining psychotherapist specialized in cognitive-neuropsychological psychotherapy at the Lombard School of Psychotherapy (SLOP) of Retorbido (PV