How To Detach From Work Over The Holidays, According To Experts

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The week between Christmas and New Year's is supposed to be a time to decompress and enjoy the company of family and friends. If you feel like you've still got one foot at work (guilty!), then you need to arm yourself with ways to unplug from work during the holidays. Almost everyone puts additional pressure on themselves at the end of the year to wrap up projects before the calendar flips over. However, unless you're a brain surgeon, mentally checking out for the holidays isn't likely to result in a catastrophe. In fact, unplugging from work is actually good for your mental health.

A study published in the journal Industrial Health found that mentally detaching from work has positive psychological benefits. If it makes you feel better to clear your inbox every day, you can still do that. The study concluded that even moderate detachment led to improved mental health. "Work engagement showed the highest level at an intermediate level of detachment. Although high psychological detachment may enhance employee mental health, moderate levels of psychological detachment are most beneficial for work engagement," the study reported.

Feeling stressed and overwhelmed this holiday season? Give yourself the gift of a mental break from work. If you're not sure how to do that, Emily Brockway and Marc Escapa of Noken, a new travel service that curates balanced trips for travelers, shared tips with Bustle for detaching from the office during the holidays.

1Turn Off Your Notifications

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It's no secret that your phone can be a major source of unnecessary stress and anxiety. Personally, I have my email in a folder and the notifications off, always. In order to focus on being present with your family, friends, yourself and even your pets during the holidays, silence your notification or just turn them off altogether.

"Between email and Slack, push notifications are a great way to stay up to date on the latest news and work updates but can be distracting and stress-inducing when you’re out of office," Brockway and Escapa say. "Put your mind at ease and switch your phone on 'Do Not Disturb' mode so you can enjoy your time with loved ones notification-free."

2Get Out Of Your Head

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Part of detaching from work during the holidays is getting out of your head and living life offline so you can interact with people IRL. Brockway and Escapa suggest connecting to a larger purpose to get some perspective. Whether it's your family, volunteer work or simply practicing random acts of kindness, expanding your awareness can help you identify what's really important. Guess what? It's not those unfinished TPS reports.

"The stressors of your work life are temporary and nobody ever looks back on their life remembering the nights they chose to finish a project over making memories with loved ones," Brockway and Escapa say. "Find things that connect you to a bigger force or purpose in life, these strong connections can help provide perspective during tough times."

3Prioritize The Personal

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It's no secret that the demands of work can result in your neglecting your personal life. Take back your time this holiday season by making your personal life your number one priority. Whether that involves reconnecting with family and friends or settling in for a week of self-care, you do you. Put it on the calendar if you have to.

"Juggling separate personal and professional to-do lists can be challenging, especially during the holiday season when work deadlines can interfere with commitments to special time with family and friends," Brockway and Escapa explain. "However, if you combine your personal calendar items with your professional ones to visually create equal urgency and importance, you’ll be less likely to bail on that Christmas party for a work obligation."

4Set Positive Goals

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While you likely have goals for unplugging from work during the holidays, you might not know that the way you talk to yourself about those goals can determine whether or not you'll be successful. "Many people fail to change their behavior because they focus on what they are not going to do rather than on actions they will take instead," Art Markman, author of the books Smart Thinking, Smart Change and Habits of Leadership, wrote for Harvard Business Review.

"Negative goals like this — where you focus on actions you will no longer take — tend to fail for two reasons. First, your habit system only learns a new habit when you perform an action, not when you don’t. So you cannot create a habit to avoid an action. Second, when you set negative goals, you have to constantly be vigilant about your behavior. Otherwise, you will end up doing the thing you are trying to avoid."

If you need a little extra help, consider gifting yourself with these I AM Affirmation Cards designed to help you move away from negative self talk.

5Trust That Everything Will Be Fine

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Let's go back to that whole brain-surgery thing. Sometimes people get so caught up in work that they think everything is important. It's not. If there is an emergency, your boss will likely call or text you, kind of like brain surgeons get beeped. There is absolutely no reason for you to be chained to your email when you're out of the office.

"If your problem is that you’re constantly worried about missing an important email, go a night without checking your email — and discover that all of the work you need to do is still there in the morning. Then expand the amount of time you leave your email unchecked," Markman suggested. "Try to get through an entire day of the weekend without checking. Then — gasp! — an entire weekend. You may find that many people manage to answer their own questions if you don’t get back to them right away."

The bottom line? The world is not going to end if you put yourself first during the holidays. It's been a rough year, and you deserve a break. Take it.