How to completely switch off from work this Christmas break

Father and daughter decorating Christmas tree switch off
Christmas is a time to spend with family and switch off from work. (Getty Images)

Even on the days we love our jobs, work can sometimes feel all-encompassing. From the endless emails to gossiping with colleagues and constant Slack, G-chat, or Teams notifications, there’s a need to feel always on.

Which is why holidays like the Christmas break are an excellent time to switch off completely, especially if your office or place of work is shut for Twixmas (the week between Christmas and the New Year).

Yet, really relaxing can be a struggle for many people. One study of 4,225 British workers from 2022 found that 55% find it hard to switch off from work completely, while a separate study found that a third of people have something called ‘FOSO’, a fear of switching off.

"In the not-too-distant past, it was easier to leave work behind, but working from home and having constant access to everything on your phone and in your home has blurred the lines between work life and personal life – including time off," travel expert Justin Chapman at Go2Africa, says.

"When you’re always on, it can be difficult to tell yourself to switch off, and that can lead to serious burnout and impact your mental health."

Woman working at night with headache, burnout and stress over social media marketing project or company deadline. Anxiety, exhausted and tired online advertising or web promotion expert with migraine
If you struggle to switch off from work you could be susceptible to burnout. (Getty Images)

In fact, one survey found that 75% of workers were feeling the effects of burnout and the impact this was having on their mental health, with 30% of these people citing not being able to switch off as the main cause.

So, how can you switch off this festive period? Chapman reveals his top tips, below.

Start switching off before you go on holiday

Chapman says one of the best ways to switch off is to start practicing exactly how to do so before you start your break, so that it’s not such a shock when it happens.

"If you’re used to having work-related notifications on at all times, try making sure they’re turned off outside of work hours now," he suggests. "Even when you love your job, having it constantly sneak into your down time can lead to resentment.

"Take some time to try relaxation techniques like meditation or yoga after work each day, even if it’s just for half an hour, to begin to teach your brain to unwind. The more you practice now, the easier you’ll find it to switch off when you’re on holiday."

Switch your devices off

One study from 2018 found that nearly two thirds (60%) of people check their work emails while taking a holiday.

"It can be difficult to leave the phone at home entirely, because of using it to get around, pay for things, and take photos, but removing certain apps is very important," Chapman says.

"If you can, remove the email app and any other work-related communication apps from your home screen so you’re less tempted – and turn the notifications off.

"If it’s impossible to unplug entirely, give yourself 30 minutes a day to respond to only the most urgent emails and messages, flagging less time-sensitive ones to deal with when you return. Respond with instructions, if possible, rather than questions, to minimise the need for further emails for you to check up on."

Shot of a beautiful young woman reading a book at home during the Christmas holidays, a Woman sitting, drinking, and checking Christmas recipes.
Be sure to schedule in some time for rest this Christmas. (Getty Images)

Schedule in rest

"If you’re always on the go in your daily life, you may struggle with the idea of doing nothing. This can mean that every second of your holidays are crammed full of activities and sightseeing trips and you don’t waste a second, but then you end up feeling like you need another holiday to recover when you get home," Chapman says. "Make some time for actual rest, whatever that looks like for you."

He suggests enjoying the winter sun, reading a book, or spending some time on the sofa watching Christmas films.

Tie up all of your loose ends

One of the best things about finishing up work before Christmas is the chance to start fresh in the New Year, so Chapman recommends finishing up all of your projects, tying up loose ends, and delegating tasks if need be before you go on a break.

"Make sure that your colleagues, clients, or anyone else who would need to know, is aware that you’re going to be out of the office and uncontactable well in advance, rather than them finding out from your out of office message," he adds.

Practice grounding yourself

"If you can't stop thinking about everything you didn't get time to do before your holiday, anxiety coping techniques can be very helpful for getting your mind back to the present," Chapman says.

"The 5-4-3-2-1 technique involves using all your senses to focus on the moment and avoid stressful thoughts. Try looking for five things you can see, four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste. This can help you to refocus on where you are, rather than what needs to be done when you’re back in the office."

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