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Beating the Back-to-School Breakdown

By: Elaine TionquiaoBeating the Back-to-School Breakdown

You've all been dreading it, but it's here...the last day of your vacation has come! It had felt like weeks of heavenly reprieve and now all you can think of is, "Oh God, it's here!" and "I wish I have a few more weeks! I don't want to go back yet!" Then you look at your calendar with that big red circle that says Day 1 and start feeling anxious, even restless or depressed, about the prospect of saying hello to school or work. You are merely experiencing a bout of the aptly called back-to-school (or work) blues.

I wish... I wish...

It's a familiar sentiment. Reality has a way of dealing with plans and consciousness. While many of us hope to renew the drive to work or recharge after a particularly difficult semester in school, the end of a vacation usually leaves you wishing to have ‘just a little bit more.’ It's a normal case of back-to-school blues, so do not do yourself an injustice by beating yourself up for wanting a little more.

Understanding is the key because sometimes, there's nothing better to do.

With everything happening so fast around us, vacation has almost become a novelty. Novelty induces the production of dopamine — a particularly tricky satisfaction fuel for the human brain — hence our desire for more. Brehm et al., in an article for the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, had rationalized this desire by saying that trying to attain something which is difficult to get increases arousal, which fuels desirability. Then, considering this logic, the harder it is to get a vacation, the more we want it. That struggle pays off in a big way — you think more of the good times looming forward with an extension of your vacation, thus making you feel good. Talk about dopamine overload!

Extended vacations rarely happen so instead of wishing for a longer vacation, look back and relish the good times. If you are really honest with yourself, you did enjoy that brief vacation and do not really need more.

Take it as a sign

When one day, you find yourself feeling blue and nostalgic and rehashing the days of your almost-over vacation, know that you've hit your turning point. Start counting your blessings and be thankful. Not everyone has good memories to reminisce about and combat their loneliness with. As Dr. Clay Routledge, a social psychologist, had said, nostalgic memories are a deeply-yearned sentimental feeling for happy or momentous events with close friends and family — a memory to be cherished and remembered and not to feel bitter about. You'll probably be a little sad, but take this opportunity to move forward to a happier future. Remember the saying: "Yesterday is not ours to recover, but tomorrow is ours to win or lose."

Embrace the change

Jen Christensen of CNN had said that post-vacation blues is caused by the stress of anticipating the transition from the horribleness of indulging with unhealthy habits, combined with the spirit of joy and freedom enjoyed during a vacation, to the drudgery of work or school. You know the hackneyed frustration: People are creatures of habit and it is hard to accept changes.

Resisting change is so last season. The ability to accept and adapt to the ever-changing world says a lot about a person's mental state. It is easy to fall prey to what is known as the ‘wanting mind’ in Buddhism. Driven by desire, aversion, and anxiety, the ‘wanting mind’ creates an illusion of control in a world that is constantly changing. This control makes it hard to accept that the world changes whether or not you are ready.

There exists, believe it or not, a way to overcome this stress induced by the frustrations of the ever-changing world. In a study published by Deborah Polk and her colleagues in Psychoneuroendocrinology, it is said that a more positive and content outlook results in lower stress hormone levels. When you get that down, taking a step in the right direction is as easy as saying hello to the transition from vacation.

Laughter is still the best medicine

So you are finishing off a good vacation and the prospect of taking the step in the right direction is still giving you the blues, what do you do?

No matter how much fun you are having, keep in mind that all good things always come to an end. It's almost inevitable for everyone to feel down while recounting never-to-be-repeated vacation sins. The human brain is hardwired to veer into downer territories and darker places when instinctive desires are not met.

We suggest being resilient and laughing it off. Not only do these increase your dopamine and serotonin levels, but these veer you off from negative emotions. Ugly laughing with friends not only makes you happy, it also liberates you from looking and feeling ridiculous and lets you wipe out all sorts of woes. Breathe for 90 seconds and laugh like crazy and all negative thoughts will eventually drift away.

Sleep the monstrous negatron away

This is perhaps the most enjoyable part of this list. While vacations mean endless parties, overeating, and tons of fun, it also means lots of sleepless nights. In any case, you should not deprive yourself of sleep and not pay for it. Lack of sleep causes irritability and low energy which dampens the mood and hampers all sorts of abilities. The list of benefits that sleep provides could go on and on, which makes sleep an obviously important part of this list. Remember the age-old adage: "Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise."

Transitioning back is hard enough without the need for additional stress. Keep your first day light and find something fun to do. As Ada Polla had said on Huffington Post, try to give yourself something fun to look forward to.

This is a short list and there are certainly other ways to beat the back to school blues. But try this happy list and you will surely find yourself gracefully anticipating your first day back to school.

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