May 23, 2022

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Caitlin Harper

How to Deal with Workweek Stress After a Holiday Weekend

At first, a long weekend feels full of possibility: a whole extra day! On Friday night, Tuesday seems weeks away. But when the alarm clock buzzes on Tuesday morning, it somehow feels like those three days never happened at all. So when your “case of the Mondays” is actually a “case of the Tuesdays,” what can you do to deal with workweek stress after a long weekend?

At first, a long weekend feels full of possibility: a whole extra day. Visions of BBQs, road trips, staycations, and brunches might dance through your head. On Friday night, Tuesday seems weeks away. 

But when the alarm clock buzzes on Tuesday morning, it somehow feels like those three days never happened at all. As the workweek begins, the effects of an extra day off seem to be fading fast. 

If you feel this way, you’re not alone! Nearly a quarter of working adults say the positive effects of vacation time—such as more energy and feeling less stress—disappear immediately upon returning to work. At the end of a long weekend, when the time off wasn’t actually that long at all, this can be especially jarring.

So when your “case of the Mondays” is actually a “case of the Tuesdays,” what can you do to deal with workweek stress after a long weekend?

First, practice some self-awareness around why you might be feeling post-holiday blues or returning to work anxiety after a holiday weekend

If you’re experiencing the “Monday Scaries” (the long weekend version of the “Sunday Scaries”), think about why. Are you unhappy at work? Generally happy but having a stressful time? Was your long weekend so great that your workweek feels dull in comparison?

Any and all of these feelings are valid, but knowing more about your personal why can help you troubleshoot some things that might make you feel better, gain some awareness about any areas in your life in which you might want to make some changes, and even practice gratitude if you happened to have a nice holiday weekend!

Sometimes we dread returning to work simply because, relatively speaking, it's so much less engaging than our lives outside of the office. That's totally normal! Noticing a discrepancy in meaning between home life and work life isn't cause for concern. It's actually a healthy sign; work isn't meant to be our end-all.

Use time-blocking so your post-holiday week doesn’t get away from you

Maybe all of your Monday meetings got squeezed into Tuesday and Wednesday on top of meetings that already happen that day. Maybe coworkers or clients who didn’t have the holiday off filled your inbox with more emails than usual because they had more time while everyone else was away.

Either way, it can be easy to jump back into work after a holiday weekend, get bogged down, and look up to find it’s suddenly 4pm on a Thursday and OMG WHERE DID THE WEEK GO!?

Use these tips to protect your calendar (and your mental health):

  • Pick one, two, or three specific, time-sensitive goals or tasks for the week and block out time to complete them—this way, you'll ensure that you get something done
  • Block out your mornings for deep work or your afternoons to review your to-do list and reprioritize—protect whatever time you're mentally at your best
  • Remember to block out time for lunch and breaks!

And take a few minutes when you first arrive to create a welcoming space for yourself. Tidy up your office or workspace, clean up any papers floating around, organize your sticky notes, and do whatever you can to make your workspace a comfortable, clean, and maybe even aesthetically appealing place to be.

Between meetings or tasks, take some time to soothe yourself

Keep a window in your browser open with a funny gif, set your desktop to a photo that you love, write yourself a nice post-it to keep in your workspace, or exchange a joke over text with a friend or partner for a light, sweet mental break. It doesn't matter how small or seemingly insignificant the act is, as long as it supports you.

Want to up your self-care game? Take some time to be mindful—even a minute helps, but if you can snag ten minutes, it’ll be even more beneficial. Mindfulness is proven to lower stress, increase self-awareness, increase body awareness, improve performance, protect against mental illness, increase focus, improve emotional processing, help regulate emotion, increase compassion, decrease feelings of loneliness, improve sleep, and more—all useful during a stressful week!

If your workweek is shortened, your workload should be shortened as well

A long weekend sounds great, but if you had the day off, that often means you need to do five days of work in four days—or you feel like you need to. No one should be expected to do a full week's of work in less than a full week. Slash your to-do list, put things on the back burner, and prioritize so your to-do list can actually be done in the time you have.

This lightened load can extend to other parts of your life as well, to make sure you’re not overwhelmed and leave time for self-care. Little adjustments like asking your family or roommates for help around the house and saying no to nonessential requests that you never wanted to do in the first place can declutter your headspace and schedules and leave more time for what fills your cup.

If someone is expecting more than you can deliver, set some boundaries

Cut yourself some slack—you're only human! Tell your team that you won’t be checking email after working hours or that you’re stepping away from your computer for lunch. Work pauses into your day to check in with yourself and recharge and encourage your coworkers to do the same.

Many of us avoid setting boundaries because we don't want to let others down or come off as “difficult.” In reality, the more you set boundaries with others and the more others set boundaries with you, the more pleasant your interactions with other will be. Plus, your physical and mental health will be protected.

We're all busy, but if someone is setting unreasonable expectations, remind them that you're doing your best and what exactly you can achieve in the time available.

With a little planning and a lot of self-care, long holiday weekends don’t have to set you up for a stressful workweek

By practicing self-awareness about the reasons we might feel more stress after a long weekend, time-blocking so we can protect our calendars and energy levels, taking good care of ourselves by building in moments to recharge, balancing our workloads in a shortened week, and setting boundaries, we can set ourselves up for success when five days become four and celebrate our time away from work while embracing it when we return.

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About the author

Caitlin is MyWellbeing's Content Lead, a writer, speaker, communication coach, and the founder of Commcoterie, a communication consultancy. She teaches teams how to use professional coaching communication techniques in their everyday conversations, helps leaders engage their teams with effective and inclusive communication, and partners with service providers to activate their programs and offerings with their own clients through inspiring communication strategies. Find out more, including how to work with her, at www.commcoterie.com.

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