If you are lucky enough to work for a company like mock5 that shuts down for the last 2 weeks of the year, then you know that the month leading up to that final day is hectic, overwhelming, and of course, so stinkin’ exciting! Two weeks to relax, get stuff done around the house…it’s glorious. For some, it’s easy to close their laptop until the first day back, while others find it impossible to really “shut down” over the break.
It’s important to find balance during the transition from “work busy” to “holiday busy”. Managing your to-do list that is as long as the naughty list, finding time for some proper self-care, scheduling time with friends and family. It’s almost like a different job.
While everyone’s winter break will look different, here’s a list of helpful (and sometimes obvious) tips and reminders to help you make the most of your time off.
After a week or two of doing everything but working (if you’re lucky) it’s easy to lose track of the little things that await when you return to the day-to-day grind in January. Before your holiday break, make a to-do list of all the things that are taking up space in your brain, rent free. Where you are in a project, who you need to reach out to, what numbers need to be crunched…your future self will be glad you did. Keep the list somewhere near your computer as a gentle reminder that you have everything under control and it’s ok to relax during the break. If you feel like this list will taunt you until New Year’s Eve, then by all means, keep it on your phone or computer. The whole point is to clear away that anxiety by having a plan of attack that is ready when you are.
This is YOUR time
If you have to do some work over the break, schedule work hours ahead of time. How about between 7-9 in the morning before the day gets going? Stick with your schedule so you have a clear delineation between work time and family time. Let your clients and colleagues know when they can expect to hear from you so their schedule doesn’t sneak into your family time. Easier said than done, of course, but setting boundaries early on will help avoid miscommunication and unneeded stress.
Use it or lose it
When was the last time you went to the dentist? How many vacation days do you have? Now is the time to take stock in what benefits are available to you, and use them up while you still can. It might not be easy to take vacation during the next 2 weeks, and if you lose out on a few days, it’s ok. It may feel like throwing away the last slice of pie, but there will be more pie. There’s always more pie. As a future favor to yourself, take a look at the first few months of the next year and plan a few special days off. The deep winter can be a tough time for many, and a day off to purge your closet, binge a show, or even take a long weekend in Florida, might be just what you didn’t know you needed. Having something to look forward to can be such a nice mental trick to help you cope through the deep, dark winter.
Clean all the things!
A friend of mine nearly fell over when she saw the number of unread emails on my phone mail app. 27,050 is my current number. I’m so ashamed. Granted, this is 3 different email inboxes, and most of it’s spam, but it taunts me everyday. Add to the list the number of channels I subscribe to and never watch, the mail-order wine from the deep days of the pandemic, and the audiobook app that I rarely use since I’m not in the car as much as I used to be. Sound familiar? It’s time to purge, simplify, and start fresh. But don’t tackle it all at once. My plan is to use my quiet mornings, as I sit down with my coffee, to spend 15 minutes cleaning 1 area. Little by little, your inbox will shine, and you’ll feel lighter, richer, and ready for the new year.
(Tip: there are a number of apps like Truebill and Trim, that help you find and cancel subscriptions you forgot about. Clever, huh?)
Just say no thanks
You get invited to your neighbor’s annual holiday potluck, and you always have a nice time, but for some reason you just don’t feel like going this year. Or you feel nervous about being among a large group of people even though you are vaccinated. Maybe you would just rather stay home on Christmas instead of trekking to Altoona to visit your grandparents. Or maybe you don’t have the cash to buy gifts for every single one of your siblings. If you need permission to say no, consider it given. Release the guilt. Release the obligation. Release the FOMO. I promise you the world will continue to spin, your loved ones will forgive you, and you will have a fantastic time in your own home, in your cozy pants, eating that last slice of pie.
Take it easy
The holiday season can be tough emotionally. For some, this year may be especially difficult. The last two years have done a number on us all in many different ways. The pandemic, the loss of loved ones, changes in friendships, families, our routine, our jobs, our finances. Grief comes in many forms. Maybe you just have a general sense of anxiety, or loss of joy when we are traditionally supposed to be filled with it. When the feelings come creeping, take some time to give yourself the gift of self-care. Go easy on yourself. Talk to a friend, write in your journal, take a brisk walk, get into a creative project that requires heavy focus, have a good cry, take an epic shower.
No one is obligated to always feel happy during the holidays, but there will be moments of joy. It’s your job to keep your eyes out for them. During the toughest times, finding gratitude in those small pleasures is healing. Collect them up like pennies in the street. You’ll find that they add up to so much more. The smell of fresh bread. The glowing menorah. A snoring dog. Unboxing Christmas decorations you forgot you had. The first snow. A warm blanket on a chilly day. The last slice of pie.
Friends, I hope you find some joy and calm during the holiday season, whatever that looks like for you. If you are lucky enough to have everything you need for a truly awesome winter break, consider passing it along. Help a struggling friend, give the gift of time and volunteer, or visit an elderly neighbor. There are those who are not as fortunate as you feel, and in sharing a smile, a kind word, your time, or wealth, you can give them the gift of gratitude, and lighten your own heart as well. Happy Holidays, and may it be filled with pie.