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First time-off stress, then the post-holiday blues

For two years, one of my colleagues has been saying that the summer is a quiet period, ideal for picking up those jobs that have been littering your desk forever. Maybe it’s me, but for some reason it doesn't work that way.  While summertime generally conjures up images of sunny days, crowded terraces and enjoying the outdoors, it is essentially a period of unrest for me in the office.

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I read a piece on news website NU.nl about ‘time-off stress’ as the stress that people experience when they are temporarily burdened with the responsibilities of vacationing colleagues. I can rightfully say that, since this summer, I know stress. One colleague was on holiday, another one changed jobs, and I had planned a few days off as well. The tasks kept piling up on my desk, and even the few spare moments at home were filled with phrases like ‘let me just finish this’. With my own holiday approaching, I really longed for three weeks of rest and reading books. 

At last the moment was there: tasks finished, transfer the work to my colleagues. Sun, here we come! No more hurrying, no constant stream of thoughts checking whether everything was finished, no e-mail. What bliss! Time-off stress disappeared as quickly as it had arrived. For three weeks we enjoyed the beautiful weather, which The Netherlands could not offer us this summer. Rested and several shades darker, we resumed work full of energy. At least, so I thought, until a new phenomenon reared its head: the holiday blues.

While your head is still in Italy, your body is behind your desk again as if it never left. Piles of mail lie waiting for you and your colleagues are happy to transfer the additional tasks back to you, relieving them of their time-off stress. You plough through your mail, indulge in slightly longer after-dinner dips and let your colleagues update you on the last couple of weeks. Despite your eagerness, you're still a bit forgetful and a sense of overview keeps eluding you. Time for a little structure as you can't remain stuck in that holiday blues.

So, how do you return to structure and routine? With an extra cup of coffee and by just starting with the basics. This morning I made an old-fashioned to-do list, on paper. Which matters are current, where do I need to push, what has top priority? And lo and behold, a tentative sense of overview is now returning to me. As long as my brain is still in holiday mode, things may not be in my head, but at least I can say that they are on my list! 

Marlous Fortuin

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