How to Actually Come Back from the Holidays Feeling Refreshed

Dec 14, 2022Personal Finance, Guidance

We are told the winter holidays are supposed to be a magical time of deep connection with loved ones, good meals, warm fires and gift-giving. And yet, for many of us, the winter holidays don’t live up to our expectations, because we don’t know how to strike the right balance between rest and productivity.

While it can be tough to find that balance there are some ways you can get what you need this holiday season.

All too often, the supposedly restful holiday break can become incredibly stressful. But it is possible to actually get what you want and need from the holidays. To start, first figure out your natural tendencies: are you a total couch potato who wants to just chill out during the holidays? Or are you a “holiday humbug” who can’t resist the urge to catch up on work? Or are you the kind of person who works obsessively hard at enjoying the holidays—saying yes to every party invitation, cookie swap, and family event? Once you know what traps you fall into, figure out a plan for achieving balance. To feel truly restored, you need a chance to reflect, move your body, connect with love ones, and yes, maybe catch up on some important work.

To understand how to make our holidays both restful and productive, it’s important to first understand our tendencies. Among working professionals, we have found that there are three types of “holiday time misusers”:


After couch potatoes send their last work email before the holidays, they flip the off switch and sink into complete disengagement. Their only goal for the holidays is to see how many full seasons of TV shows they can binge watch. At the end of their holidays, they often feel frustrated and unprepared. They typically ask themselves: “What did I do that whole time?” and find it difficult to answer. While you do need some time to disengage from productive activities, you also need meaningful social interaction, physical activity and active contemplation, among other things.


Holiday humbugs keep working straight through the holiday. Even if they’re technically taking time off, they cram work in around their holiday meals and other personal commitments. The problems here are obvious. Research shows that we all need regular lulls and breaks in our calendars. If we continue to ignore this need, it will, without a doubt, lead us to burnout.


The work-a-holiday-ic takes their workaholic tendencies and simply applies them to a different context. Rather than rushing from one work meeting to next, they rush from one holiday party to the next. They travel miles and hours to meet every family member who will accept their offer, leaving themselves no time to stop, rest or be alone. When they finally do get time to themselves, they are too tired to do anything but collapse in exhaustion.

Once you’ve recognized your tendencies, the challenge is to figure out a strategy for charting a healthier course. A few tips may help:


Most high-performing professionals are driven at work, focused on getting tasks done and achieving goals. To make the holidays restful, we can channel that drive to benefit us. For example, you can set goals around how much you want to sleep, exercise.”


If you’re as busy as most are, there’s a good chance that you haven’t taken the time to sufficiently process your past year. Whether processing looks like finding a quiet place with a journal or having deep conversations with friends or family, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that you take the time to clear your mental inbox.


Many New Year’s resolutions go unfulfilled. A way to increase our chances of achieving our goals is to spend sufficient time planning upfront. You’re less likely to set unrealistic goals if you also come up with an execution plan.

c.2022 Harvard Business Review. Distributed by The New York Times Licensing Group

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Prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. Copyright 2021.