Most workers have some mandatory time off during the holidays. Ideally, this should provide time unplug and recharge guilt-free. However, this often isn’t the case. A Metlife survey found that 42 percent of workers ranked December as the most stressful time of the year. Even the office holiday party causes 37 percent of workers to feel agitation and anxiety.
According to psychologist Ellen Bratten, “The holidays are filled with both joy and stress.” Bratten postulates a legitimate scientific phenomenon causes this dichotomy. She surmises that the holidays overtax the part of the brain that is responsible for “managing time, being attentive, switching focus, planning, and organizing, and remembering details.”
An American Psychological Association survey indicates 62 percent of people feel finances cause the most holiday stress. Also, 50 percent claimed that they experienced a significant amount of anxiety over the pressure to make their families happy.
The holidays will always come with a certain amount of incumbent stress that we can’t avoid entirely. However, you can take steps to minimize work stress and make the holidays more revitalizing to set yourself up for a successful new year.
Four Steps to Unplug and Recharge for a Happier Holiday and Brighter New Year
1. Unplug Deliberately
By and large, we are slaves to our mobile devices regardless if we’re on vacation or not. According to an Asurion study, “Americans check their phones an average of 80 times a day while on vacation, with some checking their phone more than 300 times each day.”
Whether its internal or external, the pressure to remain connected is a constant factor in our lives. Consequently, it’s imperative to actively find times when you can consciously unplug. The holidays afford a perfect time for this. Furthermore, many of your colleagues and clients are probably trying to do the same thing.
Try creating a professional autoresponder for email and messaging apps that provides a reasonable timeframe for a response. Then, stick to those perimeters. You may find that some matters can’t wait until after the holidays. However, you can put a great deal of minor issues on hold.
Richard Branson indicates that unplugging can also help long-term productivity.
“I make sure that I disconnect by leaving my smartphone at home or in the hotel room for as long as possible — days if I can — and bringing a notepad and pen with me instead,” Branson said. “Freed from the daily stresses of my working life, I find that I am more likely to have new insights into old problems and other flashes of inspiration.”
We spend the majority of our time in a screen-induced fog. There are some family and friends that we only see during the holidays. If you’re constantly staring at your screen, you’ll miss out on this valuable time.
2. Make a Plan
The holidays can sneak up on all of us. Furthermore, the short gap between Thanksgiving and Christmas exerts additional pressure to do more with less time. However, it’s hardly ever possible to do everything. Rather than being swept up and trying to take on everything that comes your way, make an effort to consciously plan to balance work and personal obligations. This means you also need to prioritize and figure out what you can and cannot do.
“If you’re entertaining friends and family or organizing a work party, it takes upstream work to ensure a smooth event,” Spencer Blackman, M.D., said. Engage your support system and make a plan before things get crazy.”
3. Take a Breather
Even if you can only grab 10 minutes here and there, make sure to take time out to simply relax and breath. Steve Jobs was a renown proponent of productive breaks.
“If you just sit and observe, you will see how restless your mind is,” Jobs told biographer Walter Jacobson. “If you try to calm it, it only makes it worse, but over time it does calm, and when it does, there’s room to hear more subtle things — that’s when your intuition starts to blossom, and you start to see things more clearly and [to] be in the present more.”
Remember that sometimes when it feels like you need to shift into high gear, it may actually be time to slow down and breath, so you can approach any given situation with greater mental clarity.
4. Take Care of Yourself
Many of us suspend regular healthy eating and exercise during the holidays. However, your metabolism isn’t speeding up to accommodate these dietary and exercise allowances. It’s fine to treat yourself in moderation. However, reconsider that third slice of pie or additional glass of eggnog.
A New England Journal of Medicine study looked at body weight increases during the holidays in the U.S., Germany and Japan. Researchers found that all three countries experienced substantial holiday weight gain. It took the study subjects five months on average to lose the extra holiday weight. So, try to stay mindful about healthy habits to avoid months of rigorous recovery.
The holidays will always come with some additional stress. However, if you remember to unplug, plan, exercise and relax, you can start the New Year refreshed and ready for the challenges to come.
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