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How to feel rested after a vacation break, according to a psychologist

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&‘Tis the season for the PTO, but still, relaxation may not be on your radar. Feeling rested after a vacation break can even seem like a pipe dream. Maybe you have young children, vacation accommodation in your pocket, or a boss who doesn’t really let go of the clock. If you’re lucky enough to have a few “real” vacation days ahead, you may already be feeling the pressure of how to make the most of it, which can be a stressor in itself.

here’s how Elisabeth Morray, PsyDa psychologist practicing in Natick, MA, recommends making sure the notoriously foggy days between mid-December and January 2 actually feel restorative, even when you have plenty of other things to do.

“You can take the opportunity to re-examine beliefs and really identify what you would like to do to make the vacation rational and rejuvenating,” – Elisabeth Morray, PsyD, practicing psychologist in Natick, MA

5 tips to feel more rested after the holidays

If you’re already carrying a lot of mental load over the holidays, it can be hard to reframe your thinking. But Dr. Morray recommends doing just that. Here are her five tips for adjusting to the self-care you deserve over the next few weeks.

1. Rethink your traditions

When it comes to choosing how to spend our time this holiday season, Dr. Morray points out that most of us are on autopilot. We do the things we’ve always done and we don’t put up much resistance, even though all those things (and people) zaps our energy.

“I think a lot of people realize that over the course of their lives they’ve developed all kinds of rules about what should happen on vacation and instead they can take the opportunity to re-examine these beliefs and really identify what they would like to do to make the vacation rational and rejuvenating,” Dr. Morray said.

A better approach to the holiday season might start by asking yourself a few questions. The first step is to begin to understand why you make the choices you make on vacation and whether you make your choices out of obligation or because you find meaning or joy in the way you spend your time and energy. “, Dr. Morray explains, adding that if you want to skip even a single exhausting gathering to attend a performance or a holiday concert instead, you must give yourself full permission to do so.

2. Leave room for joy

If you’re hosting family or friends, or playing Santa Claus for a kid or two, even the best of holiday plans might end up feeling less like a break and more like a… headache. Parents, in particular, never really get days off from obligations and responsibilities.

There’s no quick fix to make the time spent hosting and ho-ho-ho-ing less exhausting. But if we spend time cultivating an atmosphere of joy and wonder, we might as well make sure we enjoy it ourselves. This means being intentional and taking into account what is happening during the holiday season, rather than getting carried away from one task to another.

Rather than feeling like you have to do all those things you’ve been told to do and all those experiences you’ve been told to give your child, really allow yourself to be present with your child and with you. -even in a way that you may not be able to fully as you rush through your day-to-day work life,” Dr. Morray said.

In other words, bask in the moment your child opens a long-awaited present, or just dust off that board game you never play together. You don’t have to be a passive observer in everyone’s joy; you should know that you can have fun too.

And if you get to be the parent of a little one during the joyful and bright season? Spend it being the parent you wish you had or the parent you always wanted to be. It doesn’t mean spending the most or being the most joyful. Sometimes that just means focusing on connection and quality time.

Maybe you don’t celebrate a holiday in December, or maybe you don’t have a holiday at all to use at the end of the year. Even still, it’s a trick you can use. At the end of the year, reflecting on the parent or person you want to be and the family experience you want to have can set you up for a better year ahead.

3. Schedule Alone Time

If your holiday schedule seems packed, your social battery will likely be as low on January 2 as it was on December 20. If you’re looking to truly rejuvenate yourself in your free time, consider scheduling time for meditation. .and practice mindfulness on your vacation days. This may mean engaging in a meditation exercise, doing a visualization activity, or simply sitting in silence on your own for a set amount of time each day.

Scheduling meditation can actually maximize the long-term benefits of having time off, long after your vacation is over. A small observational study published in PLoS show that people who meditated while on vacation experienced lower levels of fatigue and higher levels of well-being ten weeks after resuming their usual work schedules.

4. Don’t waste your energy trying to maximize time

Sometimes the pressure to make the most of the holidays (or the holidays in general) is enough to ruin your ability to relax. Even though you know you can’t force your vacation to conform to your expectations, the fear of ruining your vacation can be an unwanted and persistent vacation guest.

Things you didn’t expect are going to happen, and chances are some of your precious moments will be taken up with accidental errands, house maintenance, or other things that aren’t as exciting. You might start obsessing over the moments you lose — and that fixation, Dr. Morray points out, leaves even faster.

Fight your FOVBO (fear of vacation ending) by acknowledging it, Dr. Morray says. But choose not to be swept away or held captive by it. Let the thought come to you and acknowledge that you have it. Then let it drift like a tumbleweed made of garlands. The only reason we let these thoughts bother us is because they remind us of something close to our hearts. Instead of struggling with the uncomfortable thought, we can use it to remind ourselves that this vacation time is truly precious.

5. Focus on the future

There’s a reason so many classic holiday movies spin on a loop with the idea of ​​a disappointed or disgruntled future self. The holiday season and the New Year can bring up concerns about whether we are truly living our lives to their full potential and acknowledging the special things in our lives. Believe it or not, this worry can also be redirected to a tool that helps us recharge.

Dr. Morray says she recommends her clients adopt a perspective that they imagine their future selves would appreciate. This might allow them to see their own needs more clearly. When it comes to holiday rejuvenation, this approach can help you define what you really want your holiday season to be. “Do you want to look back at yourself doing things that used to drain and drain you, or do you want to reflect on yourself doing things that allowed you to slow down and be more present?” Dr. Morray says.

In other words, when you approach your workstation on this first day of 2023, will you be glad you stayed up past midnight baking those extra five dozen cookies, or will you wish you were done with the Harry and Megan documentary while working on your cheese party? The choice is actually yours to feel rested after your vacation.

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