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A Christmas survival guide for jaded HR professionals


Nick Elston shares how he addressed personal struggles with the festive period, plus offers tips to help you survive (and maybe even thrive) through the holiday season.

14th Dec 2022
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Ok, HR professionals ‘this one’s for you’ – to quote one of my favourite Country music artists – Luke Combs!

You have spent 2022 looking after everyone else but – as I mentioned in my last article – who looks after the people that looks after people?

In 2023 I will be writing for you, here, on all things mental health, wellbeing and beyond to help you support people around you – personally and professionally. But, before then – let’s make sure you get that ‘recovery’ in over the festive holiday.

Let’s face it, not everyone is a big fan of the holiday season. It may not be socially acceptable to say but some of us don’t like Christmas. And in the spirit of honesty, I admit to falling more into that category! In fact, Christmas has carried a triggering element when it comes to my OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) & GAD (generalised anxiety disorder).

Now I look forward to the Christmas period because I do it on my terms whilst being respectful of others.

Christmas versus mental health

Christmas takes a lot out of us. The mania leading up to the event, the constant spending, the back-to-back socialising (it’s tough work being an introvert), plus the perceived weight of expectation from our friends and families – amplified by a ‘people pleasing’ mentality.

Phew, I need to take a lie down in a dark room just writing about this! 

But before you label me a Grinch or assume I am surrounded by challenging people, I assure you neither of those things apply – the burden of responsibility lies solely with me.

However, accepting that means that I have put processes and tools in place to help me over the years and every year I begin to enjoy the period more and more.

When it comes to festive spending ask yourself the question ‘why am I doing this’ – is it through choice, compulsion or fear?

I ensure that boundaries are set well in advance, expectations are managed, and I always escape to the Cornish coast from the end of December until the first week of January so that I can ‘recharge’ before the new working year starts.

Now I look forward to the Christmas period because I do it on my terms whilst being respectful of others.

I look forward to seeing my family and friends, expectations have been managed when it comes to ‘who goes to who’ and ‘who is buying who what’ well in advance.

Plus, I can throw all of me into the holidays because I have a break to recover in scheduled just after – win, win, win.

The cost-of-living spanner in the works

Christmas is always time for many people to ramp up their credit or overspend in an effort to ‘keep up with the Joneses’, to meet society pressures of gift giving or simply just to ‘let it all go’ for once a year.

Sadly, that once-a-year splurge can take the whole year to claw back – especially in the current economic climate.

Do not underestimate the link between your money and your mental health. It’s not a case of ‘more money, better mental health’ – it’s simply more money, different challenges.

In the new year, I will be writing more about the impact of ‘Financial Wellbeing’ and what we can do to help others to survive and thrive financially – so watch this space.

But, for now, when it comes to festive spending ask yourself the question ‘why am I doing this’ – is it through choice, compulsion or fear?

There is a tool I use in my speaking coaching called ‘Cold Processes’. This is where you take a highly emotional ‘negative’ subject – grief, divorce, abuse, unhappiness – then look at the process of what must be done versus the emotion of what’s going on – which is often the blocker.

We can then see things more clearly and if needed help the process along.

My top tips for surviving and thriving through Christmas

  • Map out what your ideal Christmas looks like
  • Set some boundaries to ensure you get as close to that as possible
  • Communicate that to everyone involved ASAP so it’s sorted well in advance – manage expectations
  • If you feel you will be using lots of energy – schedule lots of ‘me time’ in too
  • Ask people what they want – often, we are all trying to please everyone based on what we assume
  • Prepare a budget and if required communicate with people if finances are challenging – be honest
  • Prioritise what has to be done versus what you would like to be done
  • Be selfish – you count too! Remember to put YOUR oxygen mask on first
  • Recharge your batteries and take some time to proactively look ahead to 2023
  • Give yourself a pat on the back – you have completed 2022

Have a very Merry Christmas, a Happy Holidays and a prosperous 2023! 

Interested in this topic? Read 'Tips to manage staff wellbeing this Christmas.'

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