Maximising your recovery time during the holidays
Updated: Jan 28
The festive season presents the perfect time to unplug and recharge before the start of a busy new year – but it can be a challenge to actually switch off. In this article, I'll talk you through some techniques to make the most out of the break and emerge feeling refreshed.
As we know, switching off is an essential skill for maintaining our mental wellbeing. We can’t maintain our attention forever and we’re designed to oscillate between states of active engagement and rest and recovery.
For example, we know if we want to perform throughout the day, breaks actually make us more productive. You need some time off or your performance – and the quality of your work – will drop. The same goes on a macro scale. To be able to switch back on at a higher level, we need to take those bigger breaks.
Christmas is one of those times where most of us take a step away from work to spend time with family. So how do we make sure that when we're moving out of work mode into recovery mode, we actually manage to maximise our recovery time and get some quality rest in?
Set yourself up for success
There are some basic tools at our disposal for overcoming the accumulated fatigue we build up during the year – like exercise, outside time, and mindfulness – but I also believe that setting yourself up for success is really important. Most of us work right up to the last minute before the holidays, so we’re already exhausted when they start. We need to be conscious of this in order to minimise the negative impact.
Consider your whole family unit as you go into Christmas and be aware of how everybody is transitioning into holiday mode. Most parents are tired and stressed for a variety of reasons. The kids are excited, but they're also burnt out at the end of the year. Plus, its common to get sick as you go into the holidays because your resilience and immunity is down. If you just switch from intense work mode to intense holiday mode, you might come undone, so it helps to seek a transition that gets everybody ready.
In the lead up to the break, try to slow the pace and put processes in place to make the adjustment a smooth one. Make sure you’re considering ways everyone can get good food and sleep, and create the opportunity for everyone to start with a little personal or quiet time. And try to not get carried away with the festive spirit on day one. You can’t throw yourself into a Christmas party binge and expect to wake up the next day feeling great.
Manage your expectation (and plan accordingly)
It helps to be mindful about the expectations you carry into your holidays. For example, I know if I’m going on an overseas holiday that includes commuting, then the trip needs to be at least nine days long if I want to return feeling really good and primed for performance. It takes me a few days to transition into holiday mode and my maximum recovery comes late in the break. If the holiday is any shorter than that, I find that I’ve only just transitioned in, had a little fun, and then we’re already on the way back home.
If you're planning a staycation or you’ve got a lot of Christmas social events on, think about your expectations around how you're going to manage that. If you’re wanting a holiday period that offers rest and recovery, but at the same time you’re committing to all of these Christmas responsibilities, then your reality is going to be at odds with your experience. If that happens, not only are you not going to recover but you'll be frustrated as well.
Examine your expectations about what’s coming up for the holidays. Have a plan, have a chat with your partner or family, and then allow yourself to get a little bit selfish. Accept the things you’ll need to do – the running around buying presents, and the family Christmas parties – and then get really strict about blocking out the time around those commitments.
Build in some downtime, recovery time, outside time, or couch time, and look at how you can make that happen. Get a babysitter, organise a play date with another family, and think outside the box. One year we went over to a family’s house and wrapped their presents while they were out doing groceries, and the next night they did the same for us. Think about how you can share duties and make the experience easier for everyone. Give yourself permission to take control of your holiday schedule, after all, it’s sacred and special time.
Learn from experience
There’s a lot of value in learning from the past. If something was tough last year, seek to identify what you can do to make it easier this year. Maybe that means declining some things or avoiding some people – which can be good things to learn how to do.
Practise getting a few statements down. “I promised my children that this year would be a bit more lowkey,” or, “My wife and I have come to the agreement that we need more downtime.” It’s okay to say no. People think they need to be available all the time, that they need to go to everything, but they don’t. Start politely saying ‘no’ and you’ll find that people are not only receptive but totally fine with it.
We work so hard to enjoy our holidays and have quality time to spend with our families. So you don’t want to resent it at the end because you gave away your time and didn’t have a positive experience.
We all want a holistically full life that satisfies us, so it's crucial that you not only respect the break for the value it brings your own recovery, but also for the greater joy of living life. Make sure you plan and enjoy quality time in the relationships that matter to you – because that's what it's all about. Once you remind yourself of that, it's much easier to prioritise and then respect the boundaries that you've set up.
Originally published on www.onelife.aiavitality.com.au on December 14, 2018.
Alisa Camplin is an Olympic Gold Medalist, in-demand Keynote Speaker, Corporate Ambassador, and Human Performance Consultant who delivers results-driven Resilience and Human Performance Training and Development Programs. Connect with Alisa.