By Greg Nathan posted December 20, 2023

It's been a big year for many people in business who are now looking forward to using the end-of-year break to recover. However, psychologists have identified a “recovery paradox” when it comes to using downtime to recover from stress at work. This means, the more stressful your job, the more difficult you may find it to unwind and recover when you have the opportunity.

The reason is tiredness and intrusive work-related thoughts or feelings can make it harder to apply basic recovery strategies. With this in mind, here are a few strategies to help you unwind and make the most of your end-of-year break.

#1. Have a reflection session with some of your team before closing off for the year. Here are some useful questions from a recent Harvard Business Review article.
What have you found most fulfilling over the last 12 months?
When do you think you’ve been at your best this year?
What’s the most useful thing you’ve read, or heard over the year?
What's a learning goal you will make progress on next year?
What's a mistake you won’t make again next year?

#2. If you are going away, ease Into your holiday, rather than rushing off hassled and stressed. In the day or two before, talk with your family about how you would like the holiday to go, and what you can each do to make it enjoyable for everyone.

#3. Start your vacation with realistic expectations. It's the quality, not the quantity, that counts. And remember that you'll be going back to the same stresses when you return. So enjoy your break, but don't expect it to solve your stress problems.

#4. Physically put away your work computer, turn off notifications on your phone, and avoid checking emails. This will help to prevent work-related thoughts from being triggered or finding yourself being unnecessarily drawn back into work activities.

#5. Be proactive in seeking out people whose past companionship you have valued or you would like to reconnect with. Find a place to enjoy some relaxed time together like going to a movie, taking a walk, or just having a snack and a chat.

#6. Take long relaxed walks in natural settings such as parks, forests, or the seaside, and use the opportunity to swim in the ocean if this is an option. Put your phone away and consciously take in the beauty and the sounds that surround you.

#7. Read a good book that will stimulate your imagination or give you fresh ideas. Also, be picky about what you stream. Choose programs you'll enjoy and be careful to not get sucked into binge-watching things that leave you dissatisfied or unsettled.

#8. Balance your break with passive and active activities. Take the opportunity to do exercise but also to have quality "nanna naps" for 20 minutes if you feel tired during the day. This is a great way to catch up on sleep and recharge the batteries.

#9. Engage in practical tasks or hobbies you enjoy and that leave you with a sense of accomplishment. This might include creative endeavours such as playing music, cooking, painting, gardening, or craftwork.

#10. Take some quiet time to reflect on your life purpose and why you are doing what you are doing. Having a few days away can provide a sense of clarity that is difficult to achieve when you are in the hustle and bustle of work.

#11. Take advantage of health and wellness services that offer recovery processes such as massage, float sessions, gym facilities, exercise or Yoga classes, and meditation retreats.

A final suggestion. Re-enter your work gently. Allow a few hours to mentally prepare yourself for work mode. Once back, be grateful for the break, but accept what's in front of you. If you try to hold onto the past holiday feeling, you'll just get disappointed. The good news is you can integrate many of the above processes into your weekly routines throughout the year.

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