How to balance work and rest in the holidays

The holidays may be a time of rest for many, but for others it may also mean revision and coursework. Lily, 22, shares her tips for how to balance work and rest during the holidays.

The festive season may be a time of rest for many, but for some of us it is also a time of looming deadlines – coursework due in January, or upcoming mock exams to revise for can mean it’s hard to find time to rest. The pressure to squeeze work in among all the holiday parties and family time can be overwhelming, and it can be easy to feel guilty for relaxing. But rest is so important for your mental health, and it’s important to find a healthy balance in the holidays. I have definitely not mastered this balance, but here are some of the things that have helped me cope.

Set small step-by-step goals

When we find ourselves in a stressful or pressure-filled situation, it can be easy to forget to look after our mental health and throw ourselves into working. Instead of an all-or-nothing approach, it can help to take a step back and adopt a more realistic view of the problem. Instead of telling ourselves things like, “I must pass this exam or it’s the end for me,” we should be speaking to ourselves more kindly.

Although this is easy to say but difficult to do, we have to learn how to break down our big goals into smaller steps. We should be thinking of solutions that will push us forward, rather than getting overwhelmed and doing nothing at all. I often find myself caught in that rut, so this is something I’ve been needing to learn as well.

For example: facing an important exam - Instead of thinking about how upset we will be if we don’t pass, we could be focusing instead on steps we can take to help us pass. We could choose to approach others who have taken the exam before and ask them for tips on how they approached it. We could find support from others who are in a similar situation, and be there for one another. We could experiment with different ways of studying, whether it be through colourful notes, memory cards, past-year papers, or setting up a study group.

Get up at a set time

The holidays are often a time of rest, which means we may have no pressure to get out of bed at a certain time. It becomes tempting to ignore your alarms and sleep in late. It may feel satisfying at first, but it can end up disrupting our sleep schedule - which can lead to a domino effect of not feeling our best the next day, going to sleep later and waking up late the next day.

Although I’m currently on holiday, I make it a point to always wake up at a fixed time. I’ve since started a routine: wake up, steal a hug from my mum, and eat a good breakfast while watching some YouTube videos. Although I can’t always guarantee the productivity of the rest of the day, the routine of getting up at a fixed time helps me to avoid sleeping the day away.

Listen to your body

Listening to your body also means listening if your body needs to rest. Although the holidays are a good time to catch up with loved ones and friends, we should also allow ourselves some alone time to recharge. Alone time can also be a time for reflection: reflecting on your tasks, your thoughts, or the interactions you’ve had. Having that alone time allows you to reflect on what you truly feel.

Make a to-do list

We often thrive on having structure. When there is a lack of structure, it’s easier to get swept away by time or the multiple tasks that we have to take on. Writing out a to-do list and giving the items on it a set (or tentative) deadline helps me to prioritise. By arranging our tasks in order of priority, it can help us feel less overwhelmed.

Check in with yourself

Using a mood tracker and thought diary can help us to keep ourselves in check. It could range from recording the things that make us happy, what we’re doing each day, or what we’re thinking about. Taking the time to check in with ourselves and keep track of how we’re doing can help us see the bigger picture - that maybe, just maybe, things may not be as bad as they seem after all.

Author: Lily, 22

Where to get help

If you are struggling with your mental health now or during the holidays, have a look at our find help page for guidance and advice on how to get help.

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