Coming Back From Break: Embracing the Blahs

How was your winter break? 

Was it relaxing? Was a chaotic? I'm going to hazard a guess that for most of us, it was a combination of both. 

I love winter break. I love the idea of stepping away and thinking about how we interact with our work. Having a week or so to not check my bazillion email accounts and turn off my work phone felt pretty darn good. 

I love the idea of feeling refreshed and like I have new ideas. I love the hope of thinking "Hey - my interaction with my work hasn't been super healthy lately, but I've got some ideas to make it better." 

I love a good game plan. 

But here is where coming back after break is really, really hard. 

You probably still receive emails while you were away. The idea of getting back to those emails is...let's just say it's a tough choice between maybe getting your wisdom teeth pulled AGAIN and responding to those emails and voice messages. Meh. Tough choice. 

Chances are the 48 hours before break were completely hectic. Believe in what you will, but I feel like the Universe just knows you are thinking: "Hey, I'm going to get some time off to rest. It's coming up soon. It's going to be great." And then the Universe (my thoughts on the Universe dip right before and after break, forgive me) cackles loudly while relaxing and watching New Girl and eating your favorite white cheddar popcorn (is there really any other flavor?) and watching your 48-hours-before-break panic set in. 

Break coming up? 

The Universe is about to throw some curve balls your way. 

Missed deadline? There you go! 

Urgent voicemail or email? There you go! 

Pediatric clients melting down? Oh, there you go! Especially for you.  

Someone coming out of the woodwork who doesn't like you personally or professionally and wants you to know about it? You get two scoops of that, my friend. With a cherry on top. 

The transition to a break can be rough. It just is. Expect the chaos. Embrace the chaos. It seems to be inevitable. 

winter pic.jpg

But you know what else? Going back to work after after a break (and yes - I hope you got those New Girl episodes and some of that cheesy popcorn yourself) is hard. 

It's normal to feel just...blah. 

You just ran a marathon, had an unknown amount of time off (with what was probably a mix of both relaxation and chaos), and then stepped right back into the marathon again. 

One caveat here - you chose the marathon. You probably love that you are getting that runners high and you are surrounded by people doing healthy things or whatever it is that makes you run a marathon (I don't really do those things, so I don't know). 

But I do like SLP-ing. I like bringing mindfulness or slowing down practices to my students. I like learning about my students and helping them manage their emotions and social skills so they can be successful. I like having those articulation clients who just are so motivated that they make sessions seem like play, not work. I like working with families who see that speech therapy works and want to do whatever they can to support that process. 

But SLP-ing is a marathon, no doubt about it. It's not easy, and it is hard work and effort. 

As we get back to it, it can feel hard. Getting back to that baseline of effort and work after a break feels like a lot. Because it is. 

In my ten years as an SLP, I've transitioned in and out of breaks many, many times. It's hard. But here are a few things that have helped a bit to soften that transition - just a little. 

1. Know that feeling blah is completely normal.

You feel blah, your coworkers feel blah. It's not just you, and it's not a personal failing. It's a normal part of getting back into the transition to working again. 

2. Try extra hard to be a bright spot for the people you come into contact with those first few weeks back.

This transition back after a break is hard for everyone. You really don't know what people had to deal with during break. They may have had a death in the family, or have taken care of an ill partner or child. Or they might have been relaxing on a beach in Tahiti. You just don't know. When you make requests of people, start with something nice. For example: "I hope you got some sun this break! It was beautiful!" or "Did you see that snow? Hope you weren't stuck in it on your drive to see your family!" - anything personal shows you care. Bringing the humanity back in to our interactions instead of just jumping in to making requests of others can make getting back to work a lot more pleasant for the people around us. 

3. Write a schedule and a to-do list

This option might not work for everyone. Looking at my schedule and my to do list ahead of time and making sure I have reminders written out for things I might forget that first week back is incredibly helpful. It's so nice to just see things written down and to have an idea about what that might look like. It's also helpful because if you genuinely have too much going on that first week back, you might need to cut back in other ways. Scheduling it out will allow you to have a realistic idea of your to do that first week back, and it'll allow you to have a realistic idea of what you can accomplish.

4. Get social

Get out with friends. That first week back is a mix of emotions. 

There are typically things that happen and have bubbled up over break that need your urgent attention. There are (figurative, thankfully) fires to put out. Although if you are an SLP firefighter who can put out both literal and figurative fires, you just blew my mind. You are the great American Hero. 

That first week back, if you want to talk about work-life balance, the Universe will make that terrible cackle again and will laugh in your face while spewing that popcorn everywhere (or maybe that was just a particularly funny Jess-Nick moment?). 

That first week back, there might not be a balance. It's the freaking first week back. It's short term, and you'll deal. 

But that marathon needs a finish line, and for that I do recommend a night out on the town or a night in with your best friends or whatever you can do to have some frigging fun already. Get your mind off work. Remember that you're a human who likes to have fun (surrounded by other humans who also like to have fun), and get to it. 

No matter what your week back at work holds for you, here's to going for it. Many times, the anticipation of going back is quite a bit worse than actually being back. You'll probably be surprised at how quickly those voicemails and emails sort themselves out. If something unexpected comes up, you will adjust and take care of it.