Time to psychologically detach: Three ways to switch off during the holiday break

Dec 21 2023 | Perspectives
Two professionals sharing a laugh on a leather sofa, coffee in hand, with a city view through the window.

With the holiday season fast approaching, many of us are looking forward to a well-deserved break from work. For some of us, that might mean partaking in festivities; others, spending time with loved ones or finally being able to binge watch that new Netflix series.

That is, if we’re able to switch off from work which many people struggle with during the holidays. Especially when we’re faced with the pressure of getting things wrapped up in time or battling an overflowing inbox.

With the rise of flexible working and constant connectivity, the line between work and home are increasingly blurred. A recent study suggests that while most individuals feel hybrid or remote working benefits their wellbeing overall, one in five individuals feel it adds stress to their lives. And a key contributor to this stress? Difficulty balancing work and personal time.

When we’re unable to disconnect from work during holidays, evenings or weekends, it prevents us fully rejuvenating and replenishing our energy supplies. We’re left feeling drained and unenthusiastic. Not only does this have a detrimental effect on our productivity – it also impacts our wellbeing, leaving us at risk of burnout.

Research shows that time out from work – uninterrupted time out – is positively related to wellbeing. ‘Psychological detachment’ refers to the off-job experience of mentally switching off. And numerous studies have shown that it’s essential for staying engaged at work acting as a buffer against burnout.

So, how can you make the most of this holiday season and maximize psychological detachment? Here are three science-backed ways to switch off:

  • Set clear boundaries: It sounds simple, but we all know how easy it is to check emails on our day off – and how quickly it puts us back into work mode. Be clear with your colleagues about when you will and won’t be available and outline that time in your calendar accordingly. If it's inevitable that you will have to check-in at some point, plan when and for how long you’ll do this ahead so you can make the most of your down time in-between.

  • Practice smart prioritization: When the pressure is mounting to get things wrapped up before your break, be savvy with how you prioritize. Here’s some quick tips:

    • Do the most important tasks that require urgent attention, getting them out the way to lighten your load.

    • Defer tasks to the new year when there’s no benefit of getting them done now, but plan when you’ll revisit them so you can rest assured.

    • Delete any ‘time drainers’ – tasks which take up your precious time and energy but are unlikely to add value now or in the future.

  • Do something different: Invest your time in activities that you always hope to do during the working week, but never get round to. Not only will this help you break out of your normal routine and keep you occupied, but taking up new or different activities will trigger a dopamine release in the brain – your very own natural reward system.

How are you spending the holiday season? And what will you do to switch off from work?

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