13 Steps To Switch Off Over Christmas & Avoid Burnout

13 Steps To Switch Off Over Christmas & Avoid Burnout

Whether it’s been a mad time on the work front, or you just feel mentally exhausted from the events of this year, it’s never been more important to give yourself a proper break. But with all the goodwill in the world, for some of us, relaxation just doesn’t come easy. To help you unwind in the lead up to the holidays and into the New Year, we asked some of the top experts in health and psychology to share their tips.

BEFORE YOU FINISH WORK: Dr Luke James, medical director at Bupa Global & UK Insurance says…

Set some boundaries. In the run up to the holidays, make sure you set alarms to remind you to take regular breaks away from work, and away from your laptop and phone. Particularly during the shorter days, try to get outside for some fresh air in the daylight and interact with the outside world. You should also let your colleagues know when you’re contactable and when you’re not. Try not to send or respond to emails last thing before bed, too. This early boundary setting will help you wind down gradually, so you’re better prepared to switch off once the festive period really begins.
Create separation. Now that we are working so much at home, it’s important to create a sense of the difference between ‘work time’ and ‘home time’. If possible, make your work area separate from the rest of your home. This doesn't have to be a whole room, it could just be a desk.
Talk it out. If you feel that you, a colleague or friend is always ‘switched on’ and it’s impacting life in or out of work, have a conversation about it and if necessary, consult a health professional who might be able to step in and help. 

DURING THE FIRST FEW DAYS: UKCP registered psychotherapist Toby Ingham says…

Switch off from technology. This helps reduce stress and gives your mind and your body a break. When we disconnect, we give ourselves a chance to notice our own thoughts, to check in with ourselves. We get a chance to settle, but it is hard to do. We are all so used to checking our devices all of the time. Be strict with yourself. Book a time in your diary for when you will switch off and stick to it. Planning for when you are going to put your device down will help you see it through. Checking your phone is a habit and it needs breaking. Of course, you will get the urge to pick your phone up and check it but try to resist. The more you resist the urge the easier it will get.
Plan for a digital detox. You know you are going to want to check your social media, but for the period you are planning to disconnect, don’t. Try turning off alerts on your device so it stops reminding you to look at it. Our phones are incredibly good at getting our attention and keeping us hooked. You will need to be organised if you are going to succeed. 
Make a list. Specially, one which includes things you would like to do instead of being constantly plugged in. Now is your chance to reconnect with some of your interests, things that have been lost in our ‘always on’ culture. Think about the things you used to enjoy doing. Think about things you have been meaning to do and put steps into place to actually do them. Whatever you decide to do, resist the urge to post about it on social media – try to enjoy it for yourself.

Try turning off alerts on your device so it stops reminding you to look at it. Our phones are incredibly good at getting our attention and keeping us hooked – you will need to be organised if you are going to succeed.

ONCE YOU START TO FEEL RELAXED: The experts behind the Calm app say…

Recharge in nature. One of the most powerful ways to de-stress and switch off is to spend time outdoors. Simply taking a deep breath of fresh air, noticing the crisp smell of the winter landscape, and listening to the birds in the distance can have immense benefits to your mindset. Eating, drinking and socializing can actually be hard on your overall wellbeing, so use the time during the Christmas period to give yourself a break with the restorative effects of nature. Even if it’s cold, throw on some layers and go for a walk in somewhere where there is plenty of natural beauty and notice how a little time in nature makes you feel.
Prioritise sleep. The time we spend awake is precious, but so is the time we spend asleep. In addition to the relaxation benefits, our bodies and brains have the opportunity to repair and recover while we sleep. To show up in the world as our best selves, it’s crucial that we give ourselves this time to recharge. More ZZZs improves our memory, mood, creativity and problem-solving skills. Find the perfect soundtrack for dozing off. Calm has curated white noise playlists, Sleep Storiesmeditations and music to aid with drifting into dreamland. So, whether it’s a bedtime read from Matthew McConaughey or Laura Dern, crashing waves or falling rain, keep listening to help you find ultimate zen. 
Slow down your breath. When we feel anxious or overwhelmed, we tend to take quick shallow breaths, which deepens our anxiety. To counter this, slow your breathing. Inhale slowly and deeply through your nose to the count of four. Hold your breath for one to two seconds, then exhale slowly to the count of four. Repeat several times.
Create a routine. The brain is brilliant at forming connections and we can use this to the benefit of our emotional health when introducing new practices. If you decide you want to benefit from a daily practise during the Christmas period, Calm’s “How to Meditate” 30-day program is a great place to start. A way you can increase the likelihood of managing 30 days in a row is to form a connection between an existing habit and this new one. You would do this by making an addition to a personal routine you already have in place. So, that might look like meditating each day right after showering and before your first cup of coffee. After a few repetitions, the end of the shower becomes the mental cue that it’s time to meditate. This isn’t magic. We still have to show up for the commitment we’ve made to ourselves and won’t always be in the mood for it, but it’s a built-in neurological support we can activate.

MOVING INTO THE NEW YEAR: Kelly Hearn, psychotherapist & co-founder of Examined Life, says…

Cultivate presence over productivity. The holiday period gives us time to refocus on the value of presence over productivity. Time to pause. Stop the activity. Re-discover unstructured time. To give ourselves and our brains a break, tune in to the five senses and merely observe. A long walk is a great way to do this. At its most basic level, feet touching the earth, eyes and ears and all senses taking in the life all around invites us to re-engage with so many things that go unnoticed when we are lost in 24/7 overdrive.
Make home a retreat. Most of us have had our holiday travels cancelled or curtailed. It’s easy to forget it is holiday time at all, and the inclination may be to just carry on. Resist this temptation. Make home feel like a retreat with small but meaningful additions: favourite candles, woolly socks, hot water bottles, specialty teas, soulful music, cosy blankets, Epson salts for the bath… anything that adds warmth and comfort and signals time for a much-needed break.
Maintain your new boundaries. Many people report working from home felt more like sleeping in the office, an ‘always on’ work culture facilitated by technology. Ever-present smart phones also delivered a steady drip of bad news, keeping our nervous systems on high alert. It is time for a reboot of our relationship with personal technology in 2021. Establish clear boundaries for yourself about usage – perhaps not just over the holidays – and have a place to park your phone (and family devices) outside of these times. Doing so is incredibly effective for supporting mental wellbeing, but much easier said than done due to their addictive nature. 
For more information on prioritising your mental health over Christmas and New Year, visit Bupa.co.uk, visit TobyIngham.com or download the Calm app here. 
*DISCLAIMER: Features published by SheerLuxe are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. Always seek the advice of your GP or another qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before undertaking any diet, exercise or other health-related programme. ​​​

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