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Getting Motivated to Go Back to Work After Vacation

Dr. Joti Samra

October 4, 2019

WORKPLACE

Ahh, the joys of vacation! For many of us, vacations represent no alarm clocks and schedules, limited to no work, and minimized chores and responsibilities. For all of us, getting back into the flow of regular life and work responsibilities after an extended break can be tough. As humans, we are innately hedonistic and naturally gravitate toward things that feel pleasurable, enjoyable, and evoke a positive emotional state. We are also master acclimatizers. We physiologically and behaviourally adjust to whatever environment we are placed in. This is true for both relaxing situations or intense work situations.

It can take a few days to get into vacation mode (or longer if you’ve been in a very intense work situation). You might be sleeping way more than is usual (or needed), maybe even napping. You likely don’t feel as sharp mentally as you do when in work mode. The changes can be subtle, gradual, and happen without any conscious awareness – and they can have an impact on our general mood state and our levels of energy, attention, and focus.

Because of this, it may take a few days to a few weeks to make the full transition out of vacation mode. Generally, the lack of motivation we may feel when getting back to work is much more attributable to the lower energy level and reduced focus that the body adjusted to than it is to anything else.

Refocusing our energy and motivation

It can be easy (especially on the heels of an extended vacation) to get stuck in the trap of ruminating on the reasons we are required to work. Not only does this type of thinking do nothing to change the situation, but it breeds negative emotions. Shifting the focus to the choice elements can help us feel more engaged, more quickly.
So, we need to remind ourselves why we are doing the work that we do. Put pen to paper and consider asking these questions:

  • Why did you choose the job you are in?
  • What do you love most about it?
  • How does it contribute to your sense of meaning and purpose?
  • How does your job allow you to achieve your personal and financial goals?
  • And, perhaps most importantly, where and when is the next vacation your job is going to allow you to take?

If the feeling of low motivation persists, it may be a sign that there is a more significant problem. Think seriously about whether this job or career is a good fit and is truly making you happy.
 

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published as part of a Globe and Mail “Ask the Psychologist” column authored by Dr. Samra, and has been edited and updated.

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