When the holiday season rolls around, it's tempting to boycott productivity and instead declare that you are taking a mental hiatus. When people ask if you have plans, you desperately want to say, "Yes, I do. I'm creating a groove in my couch from watching movie marathons all day on AMC Family, giving my oldest and comfiest pair of sweatpants their due, thoroughly investigating the local drive-through options and lastly, I'm putting my brain on Do Not Disturb."
The right decision?
Relaxation is essential to enjoying the holidays—don't worry, I won't take that away from you!—but staying sharp and keeping active is critical for sustained focus and health.
The No. 1 reason for staying sharp this holiday season: Avoid the Fallout of Inactivity.
As my grandma got older, she used to sleep—a lot. When my family and I would encourage her to get out of bed, she'd say, "But I'm so tired. I don't have any energy." Our response was simple: "You don't have any energy, because you haven't been building any energy."
When you are currently in courses and keeping busy, your brain is working hard, creating new brain cells and acquiring knowledge, and that productivity is simultaneously giving you energy in other tasks. When you bring your levels of productivity to ground zero for too long, getting back into the swing of things can be challenging. So if you return to class while your brain is desperately holding up the Do Not Disturb sign, your studies can suffer.
Here are four tips for staying sharp and avoiding the fallout of inactivity this holiday season:
- Dedicate time for rest and relaxation. It's the holidays! It can be a crazy time of year, and you—and your brain—need respite. Take a look at your calendar. If there is a day with no plans, mark that day as "No Plans Day." Take this day to do whatever will make you happy. If that involves finding a babysitter, find a babysitter. Next, dedicate at least an hour each day for "Me Time." Book this time with something relaxing: taking a long walk, reading at a local coffee place, getting a massage, and so on. Your body will thank you for it, and you won't feel so drained amidst the holiday madness.
- Pick up a book. The great thing about reading is that it takes you out of your present reality and mentally transports you to a different place. So while your brain is keeping active scrolling through the pages, you still get to sit down and relax. It's a win-win!
- Stick to a schedule. If you normally wake up at 6 a.m., don't change your alarm clock when holidays arrive. If you choose to sleep until 10 a.m. over the holidays, your body and your brain will hate you for it come the eventual Monday 6 a.m. alarm. Sticking to a schedule also keeps your brain active as you're constantly aware of the next item in your schedule.
- Find ways to give back. The holiday season affords people lots of opportunities to volunteer. Food banks ask for nonperishable items, charities ask for gifts for children in need, shelters ask people to serve food to the less fortunate. All of these activities are good for the mind and the soul, and they'll keep you and your brain active in an out-of-the-ordinary way!
The holidays can be filled craziness, family madness, and the desire for sheer laziness. However, if you choose to keep active over the holidays, while still dedicating time for rest, your brain will be better equipped to jump into the new year!