How to (Really) Switch Off from Work Over Christmas

4 minute read

It’s been another difficult and busy year and most of us are very ready for some time to rest and recuperate over the Christmas break. But, rewarding as they are, jobs in charities can be particularly difficult to leave behind when you’re not working. Especially if you’ve been running at 1000 miles an hour for most of the year, it can be very difficult to just…stop. But it’s really important for your mental wellbeing to take some time out and properly relax, so you can come back truly refreshed in the New Year. Here are some ways you can really switch off from work over Christmas.

Be realistic about your to-do list

There’s only so much you can achieve before Christmas. In lots of charities, things quieten down in December. While that sounds good, it can sometimes leave you with unrealistic expectations of achieving a huge list of things that you haven’t got round to doing the rest of the year. Be honest with yourself—you’re unlikely to get all of these. And, if they’ve waited this long, the world isn’t going to end if they don’t get done before Christmas. Focus on finishing critical work and projects you already have on the go, rather than starting lots of new ones. It will be much better for your mental wellbeing not to be worrying about unfinished work over the festive season. If you really need to, it could be worth doing a few extra hours the week before your leave, to give you this peace of mind.

Before you go, make a to-do list for your return. This will both signal to your brain that it’s time to switch off and make things easier when you get back.

Set boundaries for over the break

Set your out of office before you log-off, then try not to think about work again until your first day back—that’s the goal. But if that’s not realistic for you, and you know you’ll have to do some work, then schedule it into your holiday. Pick fixed times, then set those expectations with your manager and your family, and don’t be tempted to stray from them.

To make it easier to switch back into ‘off’ mode when you finish, don’t forget to do something to tell your brain you are no longer working. Go for a walk, listen to music or do whatever you would normally do at the end of a working day (if you’re not commuting) to signal to your mind that it’s now ‘your’ time again.
Young freelancer woman working at home for the Christmas holidays, she drinking coffee or hot tea while using laptop

Manage your email—don’t let it manage you

Did you know that 60% of people check their emails when they’re out of the office? So you’re less tempted to do this, turn off your laptop and log out of or delete any messaging apps until you go back in January. If you’re the type of person who feels anxious about your email and would rather know what’s there, then set yourself a limited slot each day to check in and try to forget about it the rest of the time. Don’t send any replies unless they are urgent—as that just encourages others out of their own rest modes. You could always leave alternative contact details with colleagues for anything truly urgent—and then you can relax in the knowledge that everything else can wait until your return.

Have some ‘me’ time

Got (fun) things you never normally have time for? Now is the time to do them. Snuggle up and watch films, spend time with family and friends, play board games, read a book, go for a walk or dedicate some time to your hobbies—anything that absorbs your brain and stops you thinking about work. Having some down time is important, but switching off doesn’t necessarily mean doing nothing. Make some plans so you’re not just sitting at home bored and feeling like you should be working.

And don’t forget to treat yourself. Whether that’s going for a swim, a coffee from your favourite café, or getting a relaxing massage, doing something that makes you feel good is another great way to unwind.
Woman sitting on outdoor seat drinking coffee, cuddles up to dog

Slow down

We said make plans, but try to avoid rushing here, there and everywhere over the festive period. If you try to fit too much in then you’ll end up still feeling frazzled. Try to spread your socialising out evenly over the break (whether that’s in person or via Zoom). And don’t put pressure on having the ‘perfect’ Christmas—especially after the disappointments of last year—as this doesn’t exist. Limit your social media time and focus on being present and enjoying each moment as it comes.

Decline invitations if you need to, so you have some time to yourself. You can always catch up with people in January when things have calmed down.

Plan your return

Even if you love your job, going back to work in cold, grey January can feel a bit dismal. So ease the pain by having something nice to look forward to. Make plans to catch up with friends after work, or cook a nice dinner on your first day back. Stock your fridge and do your laundry before you return to work, so you start the New Year in a calm and organised way.

Planning your time both before and during your Christmas break and having realistic expectations will hopefully mean you’ll come back relaxed, refreshed and ready for the joys and challenges of 2022. Have a lovely break!

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