Our biggest enforced holiday of the year has just passed. For most of us that means we took a good week or two (maybe more) away from work and all the stresses that comes with that. It also often means we likely turned to the reality of family stresses, holiday season intensity and more often than not, drinking alcohol and eating more than usual. It may also mean our fitness routines went out the window while we put family and fun first. It is a “wonderful time of the year”.
For many the previous year was intense. It came with heavy pressure to deliver, manage teams of people and perform. Although we may have had a break, or a few, throughout the year, Christmas is viewed as the end of a cycle. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to use Christmas holidays to reset and recover and prepare for the next cycle of human-constructed time. All this pressure typically leads us to treating this holiday as a time to crash and burn, then start over. We push hard to get ourselves to Christmas and then collapse on the other side, knowing we have a bit of time to get ourselves back together.
The problem with this mentality and construct of a one year cycle, is that it prevents us from really recovering the way we need to in order to perform at the level we desire. The highest performers in any game know that they have to manage themselves carefully throughout their cycle, whatever that looks like, and most importantly, when a big, deep recovery comes, they utilise that fully.
High performers know not to waste the precious opportunity to get their minds and their bodies completely prepared for the next run.
So, what SHOULD we be doing at Christmas time? Perhaps for next year…
Neuroscience tells us that when we are stressed, be it with exhaustion, physical pressure, work or family stress, the experience in the mind and body is the same. Therefore, real recovery needs to be free of as many of our stresses as possible.
Rewire your brain. We usually connect holidays with doing very little. Whatever your normal associations with the Christmas period is, set a new context before it begins. Create a habit, however small, of associating holidays with health and renewal. The smallest changes will make the biggest difference. Once you set this habit in motion, you will find it easier to reach for those healthy activities on the next holiday.
Use your time off wisely. Start by keeping your exercise regime that you hold from the year. If you run three times a week and you’re in a new location, commit to keeping those runs in. If your location doesn’t make that easy, then try some exercise that you can do in a small space. There are so many options now. Perhaps it can become a family activity.
Take it easy on consumption. If food and drinking are a big part of your time off, can you exchange part of the usual food with some healthier options? What about delaying the lunchtime rosé until the afternoon and planning a walk or run after lunch instead? If you do indulge, which can be relaxing in itself, hydrate well in between drinks and overnight and commit to doing something the next day to refresh.
Reduce the pressure. Family time can be intense, be it with small children or extended families. What can you do to minimise the pressure? Can you break up the holiday? What about creating some new traditions with the family around rest? Rest and play are important in all families.
Whatever your holidays have in store, do what you can to allow your mind, and body, to get complete recovery. There is nothing harder than going back to your “next cycle” feeling less than 100%. Make the next holidays about full recovery.