This informal CPD article ‘Navigating the Christmas Break: A Blueprint for the Self-Employed to Protect Mental Wellbeing’, was provided by Alison Pay, MD, of Mental Health at Work, who support organisations to build capability around the mental health agenda. They achieve this through customised programmes, including facilitated training to enable organisations to understand, manage and promote mental health.
Navigating the Christmas Break: A Blueprint for the Self-Employed to Protect Mental Wellbeing
The fun of the Christmas party season, letting your hair down with friends and colleagues after a year of hard work. Then Christmas cheer and turkey with our happy families, logs on the fire, followed by ringing in the New Year with faithful friends who are dear to us. Ready to roll up our sleeves and throw ourselves back into work, completely refreshed, ready for the challenges of 2024 and all it will bring.
Well perhaps not for everyone. The holiday season, filled with joy and festivities, can pose unique challenges for self-employed professionals. Juggling client demands, business and family responsibilities, amid the desire for a much-needed break can lead to increased stress and eventually burnout.
Recognising how you are feeling, listening to those close to you who may have noticed changes in your behaviour and talking to others is a key starting place for taking positive and proactive action. Taking time for reflection now can ensure that you are refreshed and productive and ready for your customers in the new year.
The stresses of work in the run up to Christmas is not the only risk factor for your mental health. As a nation, loneliness was already a growing issue pre-pandemic, but by February 2021, research from the Mental Health Foundation1 showed that this had risen to 7.2% of the adult population who reported feeling lonely. The holiday season can exacerbate feelings of loneliness, the pressure to maintain a festive facade coupled with the potential isolation of being self-employed can lead to emotional challenges.
Loneliness, if left unaddressed, can contribute to mental health issues, but this doesn’t mean that throwing yourself into work is the answer. Talking about loneliness can help remove some of the stigma; being alone, loneliness and social isolation are not the same and neither is loneliness caused by a lack of social skills.
If you are going to make the most of the opportunity to have a break over the festive period, whilst managing the challenges, a proactive approach is essential. Drawing from expert advice on mental health in the workplace, we have pulled together some practical tips to help you to manage stress and maintain a healthy work-life balance.
1. Preparation is Key:
- Communicate holiday closure periods and expectations with clients in advance.
- Develop comprehensive plans for ongoing projects and delegate responsibilities if you can.
2. Establish Boundaries:
- Clearly define work and personal life boundaries to manage stress.
- Communicate these boundaries to clients and colleagues.
3. Delegate Responsibilities:
- If you can, identify trusted colleagues or other professionals in your network to work with you to complete projects or plan for a start in the new year.
4. Incorporate Relaxation Techniques:
- Integrate relaxation techniques into daily routines. This might be as simple as taking a moment to breathe.
- Encourage short breaks during work hours for mental refreshment.