As the holiday season draws near, you might think that “doing it all” for your family, friends, employees, or employer is the only way to make everyone’s Christmas merry and bright. However, what you really should be focused on is giving yourself permission to prioritise your needs. Start by asking yourself, “What does a happy holiday look like to me?”
Last Christmas, I wrote about maximising recovery during the holidays and how to transition from intense work mode into intense holiday mode through thoughtful planning, learning from experience, and prioritising positive connections with others. This year, the focus is on getting into the right mindset for the holiday season, so you can put your own health, happiness and wellbeing first, while also making sure that your friends and families are taken care of.
Do not feel guilty about giving yourself a break
This is so simple to say and for some reason, so difficult for most people to do. In a way, it’s understandable, because we spend so much of our year going 100 km/hr that many of us are unaccustomed to fully relaxing and enjoying some quiet time. If rest and recovery processes are not something that you’ve learned to incorporate into your normal working week, then you may not be good at moving into rejuvenation mode.
Start by giving yourself permission to finish being in ‘work mode’. As your mind decompresses from those crazy last-minute work pressures or pre-worries about what needs to be done when the holidays are over, interrupt your thoughts and tell yourself ‘I’ve worked hard and it’s now time for me to recharge’. Also remind yourself that you will be better off when you return to work if you’ve had a great break and enjoyed a complete mental rest. Make an effort to heighten all your senses and to elongate time — notice more of what is going on around you, sit for longer over meals, breathe slowly and more fully and cherish the change in pace.
Start by giving yourself permission to finish being in ‘work mode’. As your mind decompresses from those crazy last-minute work pressures or pre-worries about what needs to be done when the holidays are over, interrupt your thoughts and tell yourself ‘I’ve worked hard and it’s now time for me to recharge’.
As you begin to transition into ‘holiday mode’, you may feel that there is now a lot to do on the personal side of life, such as Christmas shopping, packing for a trip or planning Christmas lunch. This is where you need to use encouraging and proactive self-talk, like ‘slow down, we’re in holiday mode now’ or perhaps ‘One thing at a time, I want to enjoy more of the holiday process this year’. These kinds of reminders will help you be more mindful and relaxed as you shift between modes.
Try to tap into the things that make holidays feel good to you, as quickly as you can – like playing your favourite holiday music, enjoying seasonal food and beverages, doing more exercise and increasing the hours spent with the people you love most. Work will be there when you return, so close off your email and shut down any work-related notifications so you can maximise fun.
Make clear choices about how much time you’d like to spend doing things for you, versus how much time and energy you give to others. Remember, holiday time should not feel like hard work, so communicate clearly and early with those around you. Choose to cherish your self-time instead of feeling bad and see it as an investment in your own health and happiness. You will feel good about doing this for others, too. So, look for ways to help and encourage your family and friends to also do meaningful things for themselves.
If you need to do some work, learn how to compartmentalise!
Not everyone’s work allows them to completely disengage. Others choose to do a few days of work because there are less distractions and it’s a chance to either catch up or get ahead before the New Year comes around. If you are in this situation, there are a few things that can help ensure the work is productive and positive and doesn’t overshadow your holiday happiness.
Make a sincere effort to maximise the number of holiday days you have before you slot in your workdays. The more fun you’ve had, the more relaxed you’ve become and the more energy you’ve acquired — the more ready you’ll be able to power through your allotted work tasks. By making rest your priority, you will be more focused, efficient and have greater perspective.
Know which days are going to be your workdays and communicate them to others in advance, but make sure you don’t ruminate about them. Be disciplined about compartmentalising those days in your mind and only think about them when you get there. Use positive language when thinking or talking about the days you’re going to take and focus on the great value that can be achieved.
Once your workday arrives, take yourself off, do your thing and then leave the work behind. Congratulate yourself on what was achieved and have something planned to help you quickly transition back into holiday mode.
I will be working for 2 days over the holiday to focus on strategic items in advance of 2020 getting underway. I’m looking forward to the uninterrupted ‘think time’ and a chance to get organized after a few weeks off. If any frustration arises in the days leading up to my work because I’ll be missing time with family, I’ll tell myself to stay in the moment and maximise holiday mode first. I’ve written down a to-do list in my diary, so I know exactly what I want to get done when those days arrive. I’ll be primed to focus, achieve and then celebrate.
By making rest your priority, you will be more focused, efficient and have greater perspective.
Do the things you’ve always wanted to do!
"It’s time to take the words ‘If I had more time I would..…’ and actually do whatever that something is! The holidays are your chance to do something new, do something fun and do something meaningful - do what you want to do with your life! Sometimes it’s a simple thing, like quietly drinking your coffee while leisurely reading the paper, cleaning out ‘that’ cupboard or finally getting to a yoga class at that place you drive past every day. For me, I want to print some photos and get them into frames, do a dawn hike with girlfriends and get my paint brushes out of the cupboard!! I also want to spend lots of time outdoors helping my kids to be more confident riding their bikes. It’s time to turn intentions into action.
This is the perfect window of opportunity to enrichen your life, so ask yourself “When I return to work in January, what 3 things do I really want to have done?” and then plan out which days you can make these things happen. Be determined not to let your holidays just fleet away.
Practice being more grateful
One thing I want to get right this Christmas is to enjoy the holidays at my parents' pace. They go a little slower than our family does, which is understandable given their age, but I usually find this frustrating. So, this year, I want to exercise more patience and simply be grateful that we have this time to share together. My plan of attack is to lower my expectations of what’s possible in terms of speed and scheduled activities. I’m also going to work a lot harder at noticing and appreciating the little things, like laughter and smiles between family members, and consciously thanking people for their time, kindness and help whenever it comes my way.
It’s especially important for us to practice gratitude when the holidays don't go well or fail to meet our expectations. If push comes to shove, we need to remind ourselves that not everything is in our control and that getting back to the absolute basics with gratitude should be our priority. As for things that are well within our control, we can always seek to change them — getting away for a weekend or staying with a friend for a night, starting your mornings differently or cancelling your original plans in lieu of new ones. Recognize the gift of freewill and then exercise it!
Richness comes from rest
We know in our hearts that life’s richness comes from nurturing ourselves and spending quality time with friends and family. But many of us are out of practice or have completely lost the art of doing this.
So, this Christmas, take the time to renew your physical, mental and spiritual energy and slowly try to reconnect with your sense of purpose and belonging. Start with some self-compassion, and then take the time to sit, to be quiet, to ponder, and let your gut, heart and head recalibrate. Reflect on what’s important to you and then spend your holiday time wisely and joyously.
Creating history in 2002, Alisa Camplin AM, was the first Australian woman to win Winter Olympic Gold in the sport of Freestyle Aerial Skiing. After 18 years as a global corporate executive, Alisa now juggles a portfolio career as a human performance consultant, company director and co-founder of charity Finnan’s Gift. No stranger to overcoming adversity or delivering results, Alisa is an in-person and virtual keynote speaker who’s passionate about helping people build resilience and achieve sustainable success. Alisa works closely with a community of renowned academics and leading psychologists to bring practical mental wellbeing programs, tools and techniques to the world. Connect with Alisa.