Just because I’ve been on holiday doesn’t mean I have to be happy

“Holiday hangover”, “back-to-work blues”, “post-travel depression” – it’s a well-known affliction, and I'm suffering from it

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The Independent Online

My cat. My tortoise. My friends. My bed.

The list reads the same every time, but I still write it. I write it on the last day of every holiday, to convince myself that going home isn’t so bad. Then I have my cry. There are plenty of things I’m not great at – driving, maths, returning library books on time – but the thing I’m worst at is coming back to work after a holiday.

It’s the ultimate case of diamond shoes – sandals – being too tight. To have had a lovely sunshine break and then return to the office – where everyone has been beavering away without pub lunches or morning swims – with a face of thunder is a terribly bad show. But at least I’m not the only moping wage slave to feel like this. Given the number of names for it – “holiday hangover”, “back-to-work blues”, “post-travel depression” – it’s a well-known affliction.

In a recent survey conducted by Sunshine.co.uk (yup, you guessed it, a travel website), 82 per cent of the 1,254 people asked experienced post-holiday blues. And 68 per cent answered the question, “Are you usually glad to be home after a holiday abroad?” with a – presumably dismal-sounding – “No”. Probably just before they logged on to a recruitment website or started fantasising about retraining as a dry-stone-wall builder.

Even if you manage to avoid end-of-holiday dread, and you feel refreshed, relaxed and ready to face the world of work, you’re guaranteed to walk into stress, strife and at least one stitch-up. That high-importance handover you left with a colleague that’s been ignored and subsequently caused your inbox to turn toxic. The hard-won electric fan that’s missing from your desk. The surprise departmental reorg that happened. Or, in my case, the fact that the Duchess of Cambridge didn’t have the decency to drop her sprog while I was away. I thought I’d missed dilation-watch, but alas, no.

Still, it could be worse. 78 per cent of people asked said that their holiday blues lasted for a month. Longer by at least a fortnight, I’d hazard, than the holiday they’d taken. Perhaps they should have saved their cash and not bothered.

After years of practise, I’ve come up with a few things that help. A bit.  The first is the aforementioned list. The second is making sure I have a clear day, a kind-of holiday airlock, between getting home and going to work. Unlike some people I know who can roll off a transatlantic flight and roll in to the office. The third is concentrating on getting through the first day back at work without running away, making grand plan for a new life or spending (too much) time in the ladies’ loos tearfully looking at my holiday snaps chanting: “I can’t believe this is my life.”

I pity my poor colleagues having to look at my long face today, but at least I’m getting my ill-grace in early, at least. By September, when the schools go back and the summer-holiday season proper is over, I’ll be back on an even keel. Then I can support them in their hour (month?) of need. I might even lend them my tortoise.

Put that light out

When was the last time you were in the dark? Not confused, but looking at the Milky Way in all its glory. I have just finished reading The End of Night: Searching for Natural Darkness in an Age of Artificial Light which was fascinating, moving and, despite the title, enlightening, and I’m inspired – and dismayed. Our skies have never been lighter and it’s affecting nature and our health in unimaginable ways. Try and find some darkness while you still can.