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How to get rid of the post-holiday blues

Our agony aunt, Mary Fenwick, offers a new perspective on whatever is troubling you

by Psychologies

post-holiday blues

2 minute read

Q. I love holidays but I dread coming home. I love exploring, adventuring, meeting people and the sunshine – then I get home and I feel awful. My life isn’t terrible – I have a job that I quite like, good friends and an active social life. I know that, compared to a lot of people, I am lucky. Once I get back into the flow of normal life, I am fine – but it takes a while. I suppose I feel that I’m missing out on what life should be all about. How can I deal with these feelings? Name supplied

A. I believe you are hearing ‘the call to adventure’. It’s the term used by author Joseph Campbell in The Hero With A Thousand Faces (New World Library, £19.99), commonly known as ‘The Hero’s Journey’. He identified the underlying story structure that hooks us into everything from tales of the Buddha to Game Of Thrones.

The call comes when the hero starts to realise that ordinary life won’t ‘work’ any more. Sometimes that decision is not a choice: Dorothy’s house is picked up in a tornado in The Wizard Of Oz. Other times, it’s more like a radio signal that buzzes – in your case when you return from holiday – then fades until the next time.

It’s common to ignore the first signals because we are afraid of the journey. One clue to overcome that is in the word ‘awful’. If we think of it as awe-ful, I wonder whether what you have at home is awe-less, and if there are ways that you can consciously build more of that uplifting feeling into your daily life.

Researcher Barbara Fredrickson has a theory – ‘broaden and build’ – which says that, just like travel, positive emotions expand the mind. Awe is one of the big 10 feelings that allow us to see new possibilities; the others are love, joy, gratitude, hope, serenity, interest, pride, amusement and inspiration. Turning up the volume on these will open you to connections that you haven’t seen before. The long-lasting effect comes when we use those ideas to build our resources – physical, intellectual and social – for the future.

There is research suggesting that the journey for women is more of an inner one, and creativity is a key element. When you have a sense of being in flow, with no consciousness of time passing, what are you doing? Which routines, habits or people get in the way of what Campbell calls ‘following your bliss’? This adventure can start now, wherever you are.

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Mary Fenwick is a business coach, journalist, fundraiser, mother, divorcée and widow. Follow Mary on Twitter @MJFenwick. Got a question for Mary? Email mary@psychologies.co.uk, with ‘MARY’ in the subject line.

Image: Getty

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