3 steps to switching off these holidays

Whether or not your year has been particularly stressful, the benefits of switching off are considerable. If your year has been stressful, switching off is essential.

Prolonged exposure to stress wreaks all manner of havoc on your brain and body.

Elevated levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, have been scientifically proven to impair brain and body function. Too much cortisol interferes with our ability to learn and remember, and impacts negatively on weight, blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

It also increases the risk of depression, anxiety and other mental illnesses.

Simply put, stress is the devil for your business and your life – and is unsustainable in the long term.

Allowing your brain and body time to switch off from your business, rest and recharge allows time for important mental processes. Down time rejuvenates our mental reserves of motivation and productivity, and allows for drawing connections and critical conclusions which can only occur when the mind is at rest.

Even if your ‘holiday’ at Christmas time is limited to a few public holidays, there are things you can do to switch off.

Here are three suggestions for allowing your brain and body some time to breathe.

1. Switch off

Put away all electronic devices including your smartphone, tablet and laptop.

Yes, you’re a very important business owner and a lot of people are relying on you to be contactable. In the long term, however, looking after yourself by taking a mental break is a surefire way to make sure you can continue to be reliable.

Set up your voicemail with a message that explains that you’re taking some much-needed time out and that you’ll be checking voicemail at 4pm every day, for example.

Check your messages at the designated time and only respond to true emergencies. True emergencies can be defined as those that could spell the death or demise of your business. Everything else can wait.

Put your tablet and laptop in a drawer – and leave them there.

2. Go somewhere different

The ideal scenario here is that you would go on a holiday. Soak up some sun, ski some faraway slopes, or see something truly extraordinary.

Sometimes you can’t afford the cost or time to truly change it up, but there’s nothing to stop you changing your scenery.

Explore a new neighbourhood, spend the day at a theme park, take a drive in the hills, try paragliding, go camping in a nearby national park (or even your own backyard) or do a tourists’ walking tour in your own city.

The point is to spend some time doing things you wouldn’t normally do to help you switch out of your everyday mindset.

3. Gather some new ‘dots’

In 2005, Steve Jobs gave a now-famous commencement speech to Stanford.

In it he speaks of the importance of ‘joining the dots’, or getting to a stage in your life and career where all the experiences you’ve had accumulate to provide some sort of big-picture meaning.

Jobs speaks of the experience he had earlier in his life of following his curiosity to learn about calligraphy, a skill that had no practical application at the time, but later provided the inspiration for developing multiple typefaces and proportionally spaced fonts for Mac computers.

Follow your curiosity.

Love Spanish food? Do a Spanish cookery course.

Always admired fashionable people? Do a styling or sewing course.

Love the feel of the wind in your hair? Take a rollerblading class.

Take notice of the things that intrigue you and follow your nose – who knows where it will lead you?