The fun of the Christmas party season, letting your hair down with friends and colleagues after a year of hard work. Then Christmas cheer and turkey with our happy families, logs on the fire, followed by ringing in the New Year with faithful friends who are dear to us. Ready to roll up our sleeves and throw ourselves back into work, completely refreshed, ready for the challenges of 2024 and all it will bring.
Well perhaps not for everyone. The holiday season, filled with joy and festivities, can create extra stress and challenges for us all and juggling work demands with family responsibilities, amid the desire for a much-needed break can lead to increased stress and eventually burnout.
Recognising how you are feeling, listening to those close to you who may have noticed changes in your behaviour and talking to others is a key starting place for taking positive and proactive action. Taking time for reflection now can ensure that you are refreshed and productive and ready for your customers in the new year.
The stresses of work in the run up to Christmas is not the only risk factor for your mental health. As a nation, loneliness was already a growing issue pre-pandemic, but by February 2021, research from the Mental Health Foundation showed that this had risen to 7.2% of the adult population who reported feeling lonely. The holiday season can exacerbate feelings of loneliness, the pressure to maintain a festive facade coupled with the potential isolation of being self-employed can lead to emotional challenges. Loneliness, if left unaddressed, can contribute to mental health issues, but this doesn’t mean that throwing yourself into work is the answer. Talking about loneliness can help remove some of the stigma; being alone, loneliness and social isolation are not the same and neither is loneliness caused by a lack of social skills.
If you are going to make the most of the opportunity to have a break over the festive period, whilst managing the challenges, a proactive approach is essential. We have pulled together some practical tips to help you to manage stress and maintain a healthy work-life balance.
1. Preparation is Key:
- Communicate holiday closure periods and expectations with clients and colleagues in advance.
- Develop comprehensive plans for ongoing projects and delegate responsibilities if you can.
2. Establish Boundaries:
- Clearly define work and personal life boundaries to manage stress.
- Communicate these boundaries to clients and colleagues.
3. Delegate Responsibilities:
- If possible, identify trusted colleagues to work with you to complete projects or plan for a start in the new year.
4. Incorporate Relaxation Techniques:
- Integrate relaxation techniques into daily routines. This might be as simple as taking a moment to breathe.
- Encourage short breaks during work hours for mental refreshment.
5. Embrace Technology:
- Consider using project management tools or communication apps to streamline work processes, saving time and reducing stress.
6. Reflect and Plan:
- Take time during the holiday break to reflect on the past year.
- Set realistic goals for the upcoming year, celebrating successes, acknowledging growth and plan for breaks during the year.
7. Seek Support early:
- Seeking early support when you see changes in your mental health is essential to help you move back to good mental health. This might just be a conversation with someone, who lets you talk without trying to fix anything. It might also be talking to your GP or reaching out to one of the many organisations that specialise in mental health issues from Men’s Health to Loneliness. The Hub of Hope provides a national mental health database to help direct you to the right resources quickly.
8. Practice Self-Care:
- Use the time off over the festive period to look after yourself. Get enough sleep, eat well and engage in activities that you enjoy. Taking care of your physical and mental well-being is important for handling stress.
Recognising and managing the likely pressures of the Christmas period and adopting a proactive approach inspired by expert advice, can help you navigate the demands of the season and take time off whilst protecting mental health.
By implementing these tips, you can reduce stress, increase productivity, and ensure a smoother transition during your time off and upon your return. A well-planned break not only benefits your personal well-being but also contributes to your long-term professional success. So, you can take that much-needed break with confidence, knowing that you have done everything possible to prepare and your manager, colleagues and customers will thank you for it.