We’re not going to lie. 2016 has had its moments. We published our first book, watched in disbelief and sadness – on our phones at 4 am – as Europe changed forever and again as the hatred and fear of America’s election knocked our faith in progress and equality. Alongside the book promotion, late nights and political anger, between us we’ve worked 4 jobs whilst bringing up 5 kids. The upshot of it all: We’re knackered. And we bet you are too.
Exhaustion plays havoc with our careers. It makes us less productive, less resilient and rocks our already shaky confidence. When we’re feeling good and get a bit of criticism, we take it on the chin. Throw exhaustion into the mix and the result is an altogether less successful melange of tears in the loo and a downward readjustment of our goals.
What we all need is a good old-fashioned rest. Here’s our 5 step plan to help you properly switch off this holiday season so you can head into 2017 ready to STEP UP:
1. Take a break
We’ve both committed to some proper time off this December. With two jobs each, it’s tempting for us to use the break to catch up on neglected tasks. The fact that 2017 is looking more exciting than ever on the Step Up front also makes it harder to switch off. But a proper break is vital to our psychological wellbeing.
That doesn’t mean a few days at home where you sort of have one eye glued to your email and another on your Instagram. We’re talking a proper switch off. Keeping work off the table completely is proven to up the health benefits of the break.
2. Little and often
You might not be heading off long-haul but that doesn’t mean your break will have less impact. Short vacations of 4 to 5 days are just as beneficial to your health and wellbeing as longer breaks. In fact, research recommends shorter frequent rest periods over one annual mega-escape. As if you needed another reason for a sneaky New Year’s mini-break.
3. Out of Office
Sounds obvious but switching on your out of office is important on both practical and psychological levels. The knowledge that no one is expecting an immediate response gives your brain permission to switch off. Plus clients and colleagues know where they stand with your holiday arrangements.
If your office is closing for the whole festive period you’ve already got this one covered. But for those of us who work for themselves or industry that never goes quiet – law or investment banking – flicking the out of office switch can feel taboo. Don’t let unhealthy work norms ruin your break. First ask yourself how important it really is to be online when you’re away. And if the answer is that you really can’t avoid checking your email, simply adapt the message. Let them know you’ll be looking infrequently and then set yourself a time of day to check. Your mind will be liberated in the interim and your stress levels with instantly go down.
4. Distract Yourself
Whether you’re obsessed with your job or just under pressure, many of us can find it hard to switch off. If this sounds familiar, we have one word for you: EXERCISE. Engaging in a physical activity forces your brain to focus away from work. For maximum impact try a new sport or one you find particularly challenging. Your mind will be so engaged with the activity, you’ll have to switch off from everything else. Combine this with the endorphins the exercise releases and it’s a double relaxation boost.
5. Find Time For YOU
Christmas invokes visions of fireside cosiness and tranquil family meals. But we all know the reality is far less idyllic. Throw a child into the mix and things can become more exhausting than a crazy week at work. Ditto if you’ve offered to host the whole fam in a misplaced Summer-time fit of goodwill. As women, taking on too much is our status quo and we oh so often relegate ourselves to last position. DON’T. Make some proper time out your Christmas gift to yourself. Ask your partner to take the dog for a walk in the morning so you can sleep in. Better yet, find a dog walker to do it and have breakfast in bed (cooked by your partner, of course) a deux. You time isn’t an indulgence, it’s a necessity if you want to reap the benefits of the break.