Relying on the Christmas break to provide a window of relief – dragging ourselves across the finishing line as it were – can only offer temporary relief from dealing with the stresses of work. Instead, writes Pearn Kandola’s Stuart Duff, we should work on new ways of strengthening our resilience.
Whether it’s the presents, the opportunity to over-indulge, the legendary BBC One line-up of favourite shows or the idea of some time with friends and family, you’ll be hard-pressed to find someone who isn’t looking forward to the festive season in some way or another.
Christmas can also be a trying time, though, without wishing to appear too Scrooge-like. There are the usual end-of-year pressures at work; annual reporting, the financial squeeze as budgets start to run dry and the monumental task of planning for the year ahead. Outside the office, we’re even busier than ever as well. There are school nativities to attend, Christmas shopping trips to do, travel and accommodation arrangements to make and social events to find time for. And on top of all this it’s dark and extremely wet outside.
Christmas and mental health
Such factors are all normal of course but this year, the festive season is something of an oddity. Apart from the usual Christmas pressure points, we’re coming off the back of one of the most controversial general elections in decades and with Brexit looming in the new year, uncertainty abounds. It’s no wonder many people might be feeling gloomy or anxious, whatever their allegiances.
So, for many of us, the thing we look forward to most at Christmas is a break. Whether it be from work, studying or simply the political discourse, Christmas poses an opportunity to get away from it all. More so than ever, I’m hearing people talking about being “desperate” for the Christmas break; almost as though they are dragging themselves towards the finish line.
Is this a helpful mindset, though?
Wrap up your troubles
This idea of escaping our troubles for a short while is a strategy that a lot of people resort to when faced with difficult times; not just at Christmas. After all, it’s natural to look forward to happier days when things get tough.
We mustn’t fall into the trap of seeing a momentary escape as a solution to our problems, though. The Christmas break may provide a moment of respite, but it won’t make problems disappear. The financial pressures remain. The 2020 planning still needs to be done. Like it or not, Boris Johnson is still set on “getting Brexit done” by the end of January.
Relying on Christmas to provide a window of relief is not necessarily the best way of dealing with these challenges. In some ways it’s a form of denial that gives temporary comfort when everything else seems to be going wrong. Instead, it may be more helpful to work on new ways of strengthening our resilience.
Spruce up your resilience
There’s a widespread misconception that resilience is about being “tough” or permanently optimistic. The reality couldn’t be further from the truth.
True resilience is about being present and recognising our own reactions to stressful situations. It’s about acknowledging that it’s normal and healthy to feel anger and frustration, while also being aware that these feelings only serve to make us less effective and less energetic.
To be truly resilient, we need to know what we can control and where we can take action. Most importantly though, we need to be open, adaptable and willing to learn.
Resilience is about developing a balanced perspective, rather than over-investing in an event or thing that will “fix” everything else. If you allow yourself to fall into that particular mindset, the only thing you’re going to achieve is more disappointment.
Yule feel better
To avoid burning out this Christmas, the key is to stop seeing the break as a solution. It’s healthy to enjoy a break and make the most of time away from everyday pressures. Relax, have one-too-many sweets and fall asleep on the sofa in front of the Queen’s Speech, if that’s what you’re looking forward to doing. But don’t treat escaping as the answer to the problems that are waiting for you in the new year.
In the long run, the best way to deal with life’s stresses is to work at being more aware of our feelings, learn how we can be better at managing our own unique pressure points and then be more balanced in our daily outlook.
It’s not about recharging our batteries. It’s about stopping them from running low in the first place.