5 things to do today to make the best use of your holiday break

Emily Arnim, staff writerEmily Arnim, Staff Writer

The holidays can be taxing enough without the added stress of trying to work through your vacation. While you may feel productive sending out emails from home or reading over a report remotely, a nonstop work schedule can leave you exhausted and burned out at the end of your vacation—rather than refreshed and refocused.

Instead, try to use your holiday vacation for productive rest. In fact, science tells us that relaxing is the best thing to do over the holiday break.

"There's a lot of medical evidence to suggest that we live in a hyper-elevated state of arousal and activated stress hormones due to being so accessible and ever-vigilant for electronic input," says Dr. David Greenfield, an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine. "I don't think that we're designed to be in that high, readily accessible state of arousal all the time."

So how can you use your vacation to take a much-needed break from your daily to-do lists and long-term projects? Writing for Inc., career-advice blogger Kat Boogaard shares how to unplug over your holiday break:

1: Come up with a game plan

Pledging to unplug over the holidays can seem like an impossible undertaking, writes Boogaard. So it's important to lay some ground rules. Will you power down all your devices and be out of touch entirely? Or will you allow yourself to check your inbox briefly once per day?

Whatever you decide to do, stick with it. And ensure that your colleagues know when you plan to be off the grid.

2: Get ahead before you sign off

You won't be able to relax if you know there are unfinished tasks looming ahead. A few weeks before you plan to go offline, decide what work needs to get done before leave and what can wait until you return, recommends Boogaard. Once you identify the tasks with urgent deadlines—tasks that can't wait until after the holidays—start chipping away at them.

3: Set an out-of-office message

Boogaard writes that while this step may seem obvious, many professionals neglect to set an out-of-office message while they're away. Setting an out-of-office message will keep you from feeling like you have to monitor your inbox and respond to every message you receive. Be sure to include the dates you will be out, as well as the contact information of someone who can help if an emergency comes up.

4: Avoid setting goals

While the holidays can be a good time for self-reflection, refrain from setting any professional goals during your time off. As Boogaard explains, "outlining those career and business ambitions during your time off will likely inspire you to get moving on those goals immediately—which will ultimately put you right back in front of your computer."

5: Power down your electronics

Don’t just pledge to stay out of your inbox. Power down all your electronics for a full digital detox, recommends Boogaard.

Try to replace the time you would typically spend online with time with family and friends. After all, the holidays are about cultivating feelings of togetherness.

"As humans, we're hard-wired for relationships. Authentic connections are usually done face-to-face by interacting with each other," explains Heather Monroe, director of program development at Newport Academy. "What technology does is takes us away from those authentic connections and puts us in our own isolated world, which can then make us feel more isolated and alone in a season that's supposed to make us feel more together and tight-knit" (Ducharme, Fortune, 12/18/16; Boogaard, Inc., 12/8/16).

Also see: 4 steps to take time off with less guilt & stress

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