Originally published on my Psychology Today blog.
So the holidays have arrived and that detested stretch of time when nothing much happens—a few days before Christmas till a few days after New Year’s is here. The workaholic in you hates it; the long void between the Yuletide and early January makes you feel anxious and powerless. Your nerves jangle and you feel guilty. Irritation and a maybe some depression set in as your frustration mounts.
Let’s face it: Workaholics don’t do vacation well. Especially enforced vacations like the one currently underway, presents and parties be damned.
So what can you do?
One of the best things you can do in this situation is to deal with that lingering sense of guilt lurking in the back of your mind; the one that drives you to work so hard to begin with. Negotiating a deal with yourself can be helpful; try striking a bargain to put a little bit of work in here and there, in return for extended downtime.
This ties into a critical task: reframing the situation. Instead of the enforced break that the holidays represent to you, try reframing them as an ideal opportunity to recharge for the coming year’s exertions and gain a clearer head. The time away from projects can bring the distance needed to gain a fresh perspective, which could lead to better solutions and brighter ideas. We all know burnout is our enemy; the holiday break can be used as a perfect chance to defeat it and start the year off strong.
Another benefit of refocusing your attitude to avoid burnout is seizing the opportunity to improve relations with your loved ones. The youngsters will be out of school and the adults will likely be working less, if at all, between Christmas and New Year’s. Study after study has shown that the health of relationships with those close to us have an enormous bearing on our emotional and physical wellbeing. Seize the chance to spend the time with those you love and start of the year with a tighter and healthier bond.
The holiday break also represents a great opportunity to get in shape; counter the depression and anxiety with some vigorous activity. You’re no good to anyone if you’re injured or ill, and regular exercise can keep both at bay. Put on the gym shoes and get those feel-good endorphins flowing. It doesn’t have to take long; a half hour of intense cardiovascular exercise reduces body tension and can clear the mind magnificently. You’ll feel better and think clearer afterward, trust me.
So don’t despair at the holiday break, workaholics. It represents a golden opportunity for much-needed reconnecting with loved ones, recharging mind and body, and rethinking ideas of all sizes. All these activities can provide huge boosts to your emotional and physical wellbeing. And that’s a great project to focus on until the New Year dawns—just in case the next year’s challenges require every bit of wellbeing you can muster.