Lucky enough to have a festive break from work coming up? With the stresses and strains of working in PR and communications having taken an upturn this year, you deserve a break.
If you’re going to need help with turning off your laptop and staying away from your inbox, here are ten tips from mental health professionals and fellow PR and comms people to help you get ready to rest for a while… (and then come back even stronger for 2021).
1) Promise yourself you’re going to have some proper time off to recharge
‘I know from personal experience that PR is a particularly stressful, full-on job: incessant client/journalist demands on your attention just never seem to take a day off. But our productivity and our all-important need to be creative take a dive if we don’t allow ourselves “off” time.
‘Promise yourself that you’ll have a complete break over Christmas to restore your energy. You wouldn’t dream of not charging your phone battery – you also need recharging regularly.’
Suzy Glaskie is a functional medicine certified health coach, founder of Peppermint Wellness and host of the Wellness Unwrapped podcast.
2. Acknowledge that you need a rest
‘One way that I’ve mentally prepared for the Christmas break is to acknowledge why it’s important to let myself truly switch off and that it’s not the end of the world if I miss something. This has helped me gain some perspective and will be useful to think back to if I find myself gravitating towards my inbox.
‘Getting organised will also help me put my mind at ease. That’s why I’ve set aside my last half-day for tying up loose ends. I’ve also set my out-of-office to come on earlier so that I’m not tempted to pick up new projects in those last few hours.’
Bettie Moran is the outreach team lead at Glass Digital.
‘This has been a terrible year emotionally and it is safe to say that nobody has escaped increased levels of stress, anxiety and depression. These are not mental illnesses: they are signals from our system telling us that things aren’t right and that we need to change something.
‘The paradox of mental health is that the more stressed and anxious we are, the more we need to deal with it… but the less time we seem to have. Christmas 2020 is different. Total self care (and that of family) is compulsory: no messing about.’
Mark Newey is a psychotherapist and founder of www.headucate.me.
3. Pick your last day and stick to it
‘While you might be tempted to work through Christmas, this year more than ever, my advice is not to. I am not talking about shutting up shop for a month and flying away, because let’s face it, I am not even sure you could do that with the ever changing COVID-19 rules, but I am saying that it is OK, more than OK, to give yourself a break. Decide when your last day of work is going to be, and stick by it.
‘It might take a couple of days to wind down, and you might also need a mince pie or two as well, but don’t set your alarm, take emails off your phone, get outside, take some exercise, don’t watch too much news and look after you over the festive period.’
Natalie Trice is a coach and mentor for PR professionals.
4. Prepare for your time off
‘Preparation is key – make sure you have all loose ends tied up before the Christmas break. Being organised and letting clients know any hours the office will be closed and also flat planning for early January this side of Christmas will help you take a proper break from emails and being on call 24/7.
‘The news agenda is still running and still changing during the Christmas time off so having a news desk rota in the office for clients and media works well so everyone can share the load, perhaps running reduced hours for time pressing media requests.’
Lauren Lunn Farrow is the founder and MD of TheExpertAgency.co.uk.
‘Pausing can be difficult for many who feel like they are spinning lots of different plates and terrified of dropping one. Stopping can seem almost anxiety inducing if you are used to going at 100mph and afraid that you might lose some of your momentum.
‘Our top tips are: writing a comprehensive list on your last day of work so that you have something to come back to, turning off your notifications as sadly not everyone will be switching off, planning an act of self care each day to bring some intention to your time off and last, but not least, get that out of office on!’
Mental health campaigner Ali McDowall is co founder of The Positive Planner.
5. Tie up loose ends
‘Plan ahead and make a clear list of the most important tasks that need to complete before you leave. This will also allow you to evaluate your workload while you still have enough time to get everything important done.’
David Wiener is a training specialist at AI-based fitness and lifestyle coaching app Freeletics.
‘Break down milestones into the specific tasks that contribute towards achieving them. These tasks should be sequenced and worked through in order; one at a time.
‘If you get the above done before you leave the office, you won’t have any niggling thoughts to bother you while you’re off – be fully present and make the most of your well-earned break.’
Danny Sangha is a clarity, alignment & confidence coach.
6. If you can, go cold turkey from all work communications
‘A lot of people have described 2020 as ‘living at work’ so this is going to take some more significant steps than usual to disengage from work. Go cold turkey. Set your out of office to tell people – categorically – that you are taking a break over the festive period and that you will not be reading their email, even when you return to work. Clear the house of visual signs of work: tidy up or shred any papers or notes around the house, completely clear any desk or table space you use, put your lap-top or PC into a drawer and lock it up. Delete your work email app from your phone – go on; remove all temptation.’
Stuart Duff is head of development at Pearn Kandola.
7) In fact, cut down your phone time completely
‘Set clear goals – ask a friend, a family member or partner to hide your phone/laptop/iPad while you are together – whether it is during dinner, or watching a movie, and focus on enjoying their company.
‘Team up with friends and colleagues who wish to join the challenge of a digital detox. Put your phones together and make a point not to check them while you hang out. Leave your phone at home if you are going grocery shopping or to the gym.’
David Brudö is CEO and co-founder of mental wellbeing and personal development platform Remente.
8. When you can’t get to a spa, create one at home
‘Create an ambiance with lighting, music and aroma for a spa hotel feel at home. A few simple changes such as moving a table lamp can give a room a new relaxing lighting feel. Play relaxing music to switch your mind off from stress and worries. Try an aromatic candle or diffuser to fill the air with a calming scents.’
Ailsa Frank is an author and hypnotherapist.
9. If you must think about work, consider how to make it work better for you
‘The Christmas period is the ideal time to think long and hard about our relationship with work and what is and isn’t working for you. Check in with yourself and how you’re feeling. Be honest about whether your work is affecting your relationships. What are your energy levels like? Are you becoming depleted? Let’s go into 2021 with new, healthier habits.’
Dr Nerina Ramlakhan is a neurophysiologist and sleep expert.
10. Now, make like Elsa and ‘let it go’ for a while
‘There is so much pressure to strive for perfection, exacerbated by the photoshopped unreality of social media. It’s ok if you buy the Christmas cake and don’t make it. It’s ok if the beds aren’t made every day. It’s ok if you don’t see all of your friends and family – especially this year. If something feels like it’s too much, then let it go and enjoy a very Merry Christmas.’
Tara Best is a business coach, runs PR and marketing agency Tara Punter PR and hosts weekly podcast Tara Talks.
Ready for your eventual return to the office? Check out 11 ways to mentally prepare for returning to the workplace.