The hustle and bustle of the holiday season
As December rolls around, there’s a sense of the year wrapping up, and often a rush to get as much done as possible work wise but also the endless list regarding holiday activities. Whether it is wrapping up that last project at work or planning your activities over the holidays, there’s a sense of hustle and busyness over the holiday season. However, for many people, the holiday season can add an extra layer of stress rather than relaxation.
Plan in Advance to Make the Most of Your Time Off and Prevent Burnout
According to research, sleep debt has a negative impact on your cognitive abilities, and by the end of the year you may have accumulated a significant amount of sleep debt.
We’ve all been there, thinking that during December we can finally take some time off and recharge. However, if we leave everything to the last minute, we may feel a huge amount of stress trying to finish everything up on time. The best way to to truly plan ahead and break down tasks into smaller milestones in the weeks leading up to the holidays.
For example, when it comes to holiday dinners, make a grocery list online and pre-order the items that won’t go bad quickly or can be frozen, and leave the fresh ingredients to be bought within a few days of your holiday dinner or lunch.
At work, make sure you properly estimate the amount of time your project may take, think about whom to delegate some work to, or use technology or automation to speed up tasks relating to the project. Make sure to also not fall prey to extreme perfectionism, which can lead to burnout.
Setting Boundaries: Communicating Your Boundaries with Work and Family
Have you ever been in a situation where you’ve booked 2 weeks off and are looking forward to the time-off but end up not feeling truly rested during that time?
Your boss is emailing you, your family is draining your energy and you’re left at the end of the day wondering what happened with the 24 hours you were supposed to have, and why none of it resulted in well-deserved rest.
One possible cause is lack of boundaries that you have set with others about your availability during the holiday season. Setting and maintaining boundaries is quite a large topic to explore, but in general you should let your boundaries be known and enforce them consistently. This could be setting boundaries with clients, work, family and friends.
For example, if you are able to, let your manager know you won’t be contactable during your days off, and if your manager reaches out simply don’t respond. If you set a boundary and make it flexible, it creates confusion and sets a precedent for the other person that your boundary isn’t necessarily real, giving them an excuse to keep violating your boundary.
At home, make sure you set aside time alone so you can recharge, for example, tell your family that you’re going to your room to read a book for an hour, and ask not to be disturbed. Or take a hot bath and listen to relaxing music, even a 30mins soak can help you feel rejuvenated.
Prioritising Self-Care: Identifying What Works for You
Everyone should prioritise their self-care and not see it as a reward, but rather a necessity. A lack of frequent self-care can lead to burnout, which is difficult to go through. Try to view your self-care as a necessity, rather than a reward after a long period of intense stress. It's not just something you should allow yourself to do at the end of the year but a daily practice.
Not sure where to begin? Don’t treat self-care as yet another to-do item on your list, or an elaborate routine you need to make perfect. Rather, find out what recharges you and try to do it on a regular basis, and when you’re on holiday, increase the time you spend doing that activity.
Here are some ideas to get you started, but remember, what recharges someone else may actually drain you so experiment and find what works well.
Limit your screen time and Netflix binges. Instead, try to go out in nature, meet a friend and grab a hot chocolate. Some light walking that exposes you to natural daylight and nature will reduce your stress hormone [link article] and help you recharge.
Not in the mood for a walk? Instead, go to a bookstore and get an interesting book, with your phone switched off and mindfully read your fiction or nonfiction page turner. According to the American Medical Association
Engaging in New Activities to Reduce Burnout
A good amount of time off is an opportunity to try a new activity or work on a creative project to switch off and not think about work.
Always wanted to try that hot-yoga session? Sign up for a last minute class. Enjoy something new, it will change your perspective and also re-energise you.
According to research, creative pursuits actually create less stress in your body. So why not grab some paint, take out your dusty guitar or a colouring book and engage in a creative pursuit over the holidays.
Mindfulness is a buzzword that's pretty popular these days, but it can mean different things for different people. You need not become a meditation master, but you can practice mindfulness by being more aware of your surroundings, your body and your feelings. Everyone is different. For myself, I love doing intense exercise like boxing or going to a hot sauna, as I’m very mindful of my body during those moments. This personally makes me more calm, centred and improves my sleep.
Perhaps you can be mindful as you put on body lotion, have a hot cup of tea or listen to calming music. You can be mindful even when you're doing mundane tasks, noticing what's around you and the five senses. I personally like to use an acupuncture mat on a regular basis to help relieve stress in the evenings.
Change Your Mindset towards Self-Care and Lower Your Standards
In coaching, there is a lot of work done with my clients on mindset shifts that need to happen to achieve better work life balance. One that is common is the shift from the mindset of needing self-care as a reward to hard work rather than a necessity or status quo.
Firstly, try to understand where this view comes from. Who told you that you should only rest when tired or only ‘treat yourself’ to that massage after you’ve finished that long project at work? We must remember that we are always in a state of doing and should try to get into a state of being, we cannot be constantly working, taking care of others and not taking care of ourselves. Start small, by allowing yourself even 5 mins alone every day to relax and feel grounded, and you’ll be on your first step towards changing your mindset and habits about self-care.
The second step is to practice self-compassion and lower your standards.
What I mean by this is to try to move away from perfectionist attitudes which cause extra stress, take away time for relaxation and de-stressing and may cause negative beliefs about yourself and your worthiness of self-care. The best way to approach this is to understand that perfectionism in you entire life cannot actually be achieved, and being “good enough” or “decent” is actually enough.
So my challenge to you is, figure out what is “good enough”, and how much extra time, energy and resources would you have if you lower your standards a little, to allow yourself to recharge and reconnect? Once you do this, you will be on your way to prevent burnout.
Seeking Support: Reaching out to friends or professionals if needed
Lastly, take time to socialise with people that energize you. Whether it’s your family or particular friends that make you laugh and smile, spend this holiday season engaging with them. If you have people in your life that seem to drain you, remember that stepping away from them and setting boundaries isn't selfish, but necessary. Sometimes, it's hard to set boundaries, and working with a coach can help you understand what boundaries you need to set and how to do so successfully.
Wishing you a Restful and Joyous Holiday Season!