Don’t Forget to Unplug for the Holidays

Don't forget to unplugLet’s be honest.

As we get older, the holidays can be as much of a source for stress as they are about being with family, general merriment and watching National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation on repeat.

Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, there’s a lot to be done. Planning where you’re going to be; syncing up your schedule with family and friends; deciding who’s preparing what food; brainstorming, finding and purchasing presents; readying the house for visitors; setting up decorations; restocking the, now very essential, liquor supply, etc.

And, all the while, there’s that one little nagging detail: your job. You may be off work on the actual holiday, but everything that leads up to and follows that date competes for attention with your good ol’ 9-5.

As Jill mentioned in her Technology Overload blog, we live in an “always on” society that doesn’t just clock out when you leave the building. Our phones become a symphony of dings and beeps as we receive emails, texts and meeting alerts throughout the day. Let’s face it – our smartphones have become the heartbeat of our business and if they aren’t making noise, we’re worried something is wrong.

So, how do we combat the holiday stress and mitigate the “Carol of the Chimes” soundtrack on our device?

How to Combat the “Always On” Mentality for the Holidays

SPOILER ALERT: There’s no secret sauce. Everyone’s situation is different – and that’s not me tap dancing around the issue,  it’s more of a disclaimer that what might work for some may not apply to others and could even result in termination for others still.

Here’s what we know: Not being able to unwind and be a part of the most joyous time of the year will break you. It will break your spirit and it will weaken your ability to appreciate all the happiness that’s around you. Scary stuff. We don’t want that. Gross.

Here’s what else we know: All stress is internal. It can’t exist if we don’t breathe life into it. Like a vampire, it must be invited in before it enters our life.

So, understanding that as easily as we can create stress, we can destroy it is an important building block to our holiday solution. Now we need to apply it to our personal lives. Again, there are so many factors at play in our lives that no solution can be applied to the masses. Find your own holiday hack. Here’s mine:

One Man’s Holiday Hack to Enjoying the Holidays

As a marketing guy who specializes in producing content in all its various mediums, I already have a leg up on the 9-5 lot because my office hours have a bit of flex built in and are more task orientated in nature than most jobs (which is the problem with most jobs these days, but that’s a conversation for another day).

But this “Results Only” work environment leaves me very susceptible to the “always on” lifestyle that can extend my work-life into the late hours from time to time, and makes me more and more a slave to my dinging commander, the smartphone.

For further background: I love the holidays. I love how Thanksgiving is centered on family, food and being thankful (sorry, not as much about the football as most dudes). I love how Christmas parades into our lives with bright lights, seasonal songs and movies, family moments and general merriment that you see wherever you go and lightens your mood every time. I love New Years for its campaign to carry the good parts of the previous year into the next and filter out the bad ones for a chance at a better start this time.

And, just like everyone else, there are times when I get stressed out by the holidays. I find ways to make the act of producing merriment a stress point. I’ve been documented as something of a moaner when putting up decorations or when trying to find presents at the last minute. And sometimes, when I’m crammed into a house full of relatives who grow louder as the night grows long, I may or may not dream of being back at my house where it’s quiet and I can be covered in blankets and booze as I watch a Home Alone marathon.

But I don’t let work stress me out.

How I pull it off: I make darn sure that I know what’s expected of me before the holidays hit and I work hard to deliver before that turkey is served or those presents are unwrapped.

This frees up my time to be engaged in the season and my loved ones rather than stressed about what’s waiting for me at the office. At the end of the day, most businesses are moving at a snail’s pace this time of year anyway. Why not take the opportunity to unwind while you have the chance?

Regarding my mobile device: I haven’t been completely unplugged since high school (when it was involuntary), but during the holidays, I show my family and friends the respect of keeping my focus on them while we’re together and waiting to check the emails before bed, if then.

And that’s not me shirking my workplace duties, just prioritizing them. My team knows to text me if it’s an emergency, and I’ll respond accordingly – but I don’t need to treat the mundane emails and alerts that slip through as emergencies and cut off Grandma to check my phone right in the middle of her fourth retelling of the time she lost me in the department store because I had started a new life in the middle of a shirt rack in the Men’s section.

Unplug to Connect This Season:

We’re going to be as stressed as we let ourselves be this holiday season. Find a way to lighten the workload and brighten the mood so you can make the most of this time connecting with your loved ones. Whether that means working hard in the days leading up to your time off or “accidentally dropping your phone in Aunt Carol’s famous cranberry sauce”, remember to unplug and relax.

Unless, of course, you work in retail. I’m afraid there’s no saving you…

Happy holidays.

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One Response to Don’t Forget to Unplug for the Holidays

  1. Jill Kunkel says:

    GREAT post Peter! Happy Holidays to you!

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