Digs On Church Post Five tips to avoid the return-to-varsity blues 2.

Five tips to avoid the return-to-varsity blues

In the lead-up to returning to varsity, you may find your toes curling in your shoes at the thought of early-morning lectures, the commute, the projects, proposals, research, reviews and more. Well, firstly, we’re here to tell you that that feeling of dread – whether a mild niggle or acute enough to have you groaning out load – is entirely normal. Happiness expert and psychologist Dr Melissa Weinberg says it’s a “sign of healthy psychological functioning”. More on this later. And secondly, you’re in good company. Thousands of students (and employees) experience this as their vacation ends and reality and responsibilities creep in.

So here are some tips to help you beat your post-vacation blues and hopefully feel more prepared for the year and workload ahead.

Understand Your Brain's role in feeling down.

Understand your brain’s role in feeling down

Feeling down after returning from sun-kissed beaches or skiing on snowy slopes is normal. But it’s not necessarily because holidaying is the best ever and the real-world sucks. Weinberg, who we quoted earlier, explains that “your brain corrupts the memories of holidays past, and tricks us into disproportionately remembering the parts of the holiday we enjoyed.” That bluebottle sting that flamed and flared for hours? Forgotten. The huge fight you had with your sibling over Monopoly that ended in cancelled dinner plans and two days of pouting? A distant memory.

Our brains fool us into believing that holidays are all good all the time and that “somewhat ironically, the capacity to fool ourselves every single day is an indication of good mental health and psychological functioning,” Weinberg says. Why? Because our brains need to come down from on high to a “baseline level of well-being” and find the right emotional balance so we can carry on functioning optimally. This may sound strange, but it’s true. With that said, if you’re hit with the post-holiday blues, just remember that it’s meant to happen and actually should happen so you can get back to your routine.

Digs On Church Post Plan for the forgotten 2

Plan for the forgotten and the overwhelm

Nothing is worse than busking your way through your first tutor meeting because you didn’t do the prescribed reading and having every eyeball in that room rolling at you simultaneously. So, before you head back, consider anything you may have forgotten to prepare for. This may mean wading through emails from last year or flicking through old notes, but it’s worth taking some time now (or split over consecutive days) so you don’t end up unprepared or missing deadlines.

The other thing to do is plan for the overwhelm. Getting back into the swing of things often means meetings, reading chapters, tackling assignments, attending sports practice and more. If you can already have a strategy in place, it’ll help you avoid the overwhelm.

One way to do this is to work with non-negotiables you pre-populate on your calendar. This could be anything from a bi-weekly session with a psychologist to daily time at the gym. You’ll need to have some flexibility for lecture schedules that might disrupt this, but when it comes to managing your deadlines, having non-movable calendar items will help you plan your time and implement the most effective method to get things done (if you don’t already have one). This could be anything from the Pomodoro method – breaking up tasks into set intervals using an alarm or stopwatch with breaks in between – to the Getting Things Done method. This method dictates that you capture everything that has your attention, sort it into what’s actionable, categorise it, review it, and then do it. This might sound basic, but following a method can streamline your planning and thinking overall.

Digs On Church Post Refamiliarise yourself 2

Refamiliarise yourself with passwords, platforms and people

After a few weeks away from your laptop and the library, it’s easier than you think to hit a blank when logging into the student portal or typing in your email password. A great way to prevent this is to keep the important information in a notebook or on your phone to refamiliarise yourself when you return from vacation. There are only so many ‘Forgot password?’ buttons you can click before your annoyance level hits its peak. If you’re storing sensitive info like this, just remember to keep it in a safe place.

Something else to get reacquainted with are the platforms you use for assignment submissions, lecturer queries and others. The same applies to the processes you used to follow – what do you submit first, and is it via email or a PDF upload? Who should be getting your assignments? Have any lecturers or tutors changed? Avoid any last-minute stress come crunch time by getting your ducks in a row on your return. If you’re a first-year, well, then you’ll be learning all of this from scratch. Take notes!

Digs On Church Pos Re-establish a routine 2

Re-establish a routine

During your vacay, you’ve gone to bed when you want, woken up when you want, had breakfast for dinner and sometimes skipped breakfast altogether and only pigged out on one massive meal. And this is absolutely fine when your days are filled with time, activities and zero responsibility. But when you need to get back to hitting the books, re-establishing a sustainable routine is a must to help you combat stress, get better sleep and save your brainpower for the big stuff.

Part of your routine should be getting back to eating semi-well-ish; we’re not talking kale smoothies and tofu bowls three times a day, but good nutrition plays a major role in cognitive performance, as does eating regularly – spikes and dips in blood sugar negatively impact productivity, so avoid skipping meals. Eating more fruits and veggies is also linked to being happier, more engaged and more creative according to research.

If your pre-vacation routine worked for you, then keep at it. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel. But if your old routine just wasn’t working – was a run, cold plunge, meditation and gourmet omelette honestly something you could sustain daily before sunrise – here are some ideas to help.

  1. Be realistic. If you’re not a morning person and usually wake up with five minutes to prepare for the day, don’t try to force a routine centred on early-morning accomplishments. It will leave you feeling deflated before you’ve even rolled out of bed because the chance of snoozing your 4 am alarm is high. Instead, consider how you can implement incremental changes to your routine that will help speed things up or make things easier. This could be as simple as prepping your coffee mug the night before or laying out your clothes for the next day. We know you’ve heard these before, but there’s a reason you have – these incremental changes allow you to claw back time and optimise your routine so it becomes effortless.


  1. Audit your day. What habit is part of your daily routine that you may not notice anymore? What could you ‘tack on’ to this habit to establish your optimal routine? James Clear talks about this in his book Atomic Habits when he refers to habit stacking – where you pair a new habit (or something you’d like to become a habit) with a habit you currently do. An example might be: After pouring my morning coffee, I’ll spend five minutes reviewing my assignment deadlines. Over time, you can start “chaining small habits together”, Clear says, helping you take advantage of the natural momentum of ‘doing’.


  1. Designate device time. Our cellphones, laptops, iPads and other electric doodads constantly fight for our attention with app upon app. Authors of Make Time Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky refer to these apps as Infinity Pools – they have endlessly replenishing content for you to get distracted by and often entirely disrupt your routine, leaving you in a whirlpool of procrastination destined for the depths.


Here are two ways you can beat the distraction: one is the method Knapp and Zeratsky use, which is to make it harder to engage with Infinity Pools by adding difficult steps to getting there – uninstalling Instagram and getting your best friend to regularly change your password without telling you is a pretty dramatic but effective way of putting you off mindlessly scrolling. It’s going to take considerable effort if you want to scroll. And that’s the idea.


The second method is to designate device time, which requires a bit of self-discipline. It feels natural to pounce on your device with every notification ping. However, giving yourself set periods throughout the day to check your electronics can help keep you focused and prevent your routine from being hijacked by distraction.

Start planning your next break 2

Start planning your next break

Nothing can motivate a person more than the anticipation of an upcoming vacation. Not only does it help break up what feels like the monotony of work and assignments – you can see that date approaching in your calendar and get a thrill every time you do – but it can also boost your mood and lower your stress according to research, on top of increasing your optimism and patience. Now those are some pretty good reasons to plan your vacations in advance.

Something else to consider is using the next vacation build-up as something to look forward to, too. If you’ve planned a seven-day camping trip, why not use the preceding weeks to shop for what you need – whether that’s something as simple as waterproof socks or bigger like camping chairs? And the same thinking applies whether you’re buying or borrowing these items. Start preparing your stockpile of must-haves so you can see progress towards your impending break. If you live in a shared space and don’t have the room to store your Dad’s 16-man, weather-reinforced tent, making arrangements for collections and drop-offs on specified dates can give you the same motivational boost.

We hope some of these ideas can propel you out of your post-vacation lethargy and get you feeling motivated for 2024. And if all else fails, just remember that time does in fact fly, and you’ll be on that next vacation before you know it.