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Give Yourself a Break

Well, they're over! Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, that is. Gifts were opened, love was everywhere, and the feast of unique traditional foods was an especially good treat.

Family members, where possible, were at your side, and I am sure you found people put aside their worries and woes to mix, mingle, have a good time and celebrate the Canadian life.

So, what are you going to do today?

Some folks are flocking to stores to take advantage of Boxing Week sales. Other folks, less anxious to find a sale, are simply treating themselves to a more leisurely pace and have nothing special planned.

Thankfully, there is a good level of snow so families can travel to ski hills, slide on their new toboggans or try out new skates. And, with the river walk open, many people are busy touring the winners of that now-famous "Warming Huts contest: An Art + Architecture Competition on Ice."

Still others are begging for tickets to the sold-out Raw: Almond 2016 restaurant service located on the river.

Finally, many people spend all day on the phone as they catch up with family and friends across the world. Others will curl up with a good book and/or listen to their new music ensemble.

I also know many others who are volunteering to spend time with seniors whose families could not celebrate with them. Which reminded me the Christmas season can be very stressful as well as lonely.

Stress from shopping and gift buying, driving from place to place, arranging multiple schedules, equalizing gifts, balancing family dynamics and of course, preparing for the celebratory family meal. In fact, for those who are busy, the holiday season can wear people out. On the other hand, those without family might find their stress borders on depression.

So, looking after one's stress and general health during the holiday season is very important. Take time for yourself.

Here are some ideas to help you leave work and enjoy the holiday season.

  1. Park any thought you have of work not done, segregate this from your thinking. Do not open the laptop you brought home. Shut off your business phone. Make sure the office message machine states you are on vacation but remember to state your return dates. Although it is hard to do, try not to check messages. 
  2. Put that all-important report away, clear your home desk of any work items. Put a nice new book in the middle of your home desk so you won't be tempted to work.
  3. Develop a schedule for your holiday season so you know the what, where, when and how of all your activities, plan ahead for travel delays as these are often the most stressful issues during the season.
  4. Turn on your favourite Christmas music and accompany it with the ever-present fireplace screen on TV, watch the flames and be mesmerized by the peace it brings. Close your eyes and meditate for five minutes.
  5. Reduce the stress of Christmas cooking and cleaning, assign special tasks to various family members and/or purchase pre-prepared food to complement home meals; share the work, share the wealth.
  6. Search out good memories, reread the Christmas cards and messages you've received; reflect on the good times with these friends, then reach out to wish them well.
  7. Stick to regular meal times, where possible, and keep up the exercise routine; moderate what you eat and drink.
  8. If you are feeling somewhat alone, don't hesitate to reach out to others for a bit of Christmas cheer and/or reach out to others you know are lonely themselves. Offer friendship and companionship even if it's just through a telephone call.
  9. Select and view a good movie or two that you know will lift your spirits and help you enjoy the holiday season; get some fresh air and go to a movie theatre. Take your pick, there are lots of new movies.
  10. If you've received new technology, leave it for a day or two before you explore how it works, there is nothing more frustrating than trying to learn a new gadget when you're already stressed.
  11. Go for an afternoon walk, check out your neighbourhood in the daytime... after all, you are spending most of your time at work. You'll be amazed at what you have been missing.
  12. Go for an evening walk, check out the constellations and see if you can remember all their names. Enjoy the northern lights. Use this walk as time for yourself even if it is only 15 to 20 minutes.
  13. Sit still in a favourite chair, close your eyes and breathe deeply. Think about the good times you've had this past year. Think about the good relationships, the successes of children, and/or family members. Create a positive picture in your mind and project more good things for 2016.
  14. Read a good book, no, not a business book. Perhaps leaf through a picture book that helps you to understand a different part of our country and/or our own city and province.
  15. Ignore the old saying we are never tourists in our own town, make arrangements to attend the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, the Manitoba Museum, The Forks and/or other well-known tourist locations;
  16. Pick up the family album and/or those photos on your home computer. Review them, revisit and enjoy your previous trips and/or fun times with your family; think about finding ways to memorize these events; perhaps it is time to plan for a return trip.
  17. Learn to say no. Define your boundaries for personal downtime and politely refuse invitations if they take away from private time. Reschedule a visit for another time. Your personal downtime is valuable, and only you can protect it. 
  18. If work thoughts creep into your mind, write yourself a note and put it on your home desk. Don't do anything other than this. Leave it and go back to your holiday time.

You might think all these suggestions will work well, but I can tell you from experience they are hard to do, especially for workaholics. So, if you are like me and can't unplug completely, limit how often you check in.

You'll be surprised most calls and email messages don't really need an immediate response. But, at least you are in the know.

 Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 26, 2015 B12

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