Why is that the term "burnout" returns significantly more hits in a Google search than Santa Claus? Experts are worried: The level of stress-related sickness at work is increasing sharply. Rest and relaxation should therefore be at the top of the Christmas list.
You've had a challenging year at work and, after a strenuous end-of-year spurt, are looking forward to a well-earned Christmas break to recharge your batteries. For 40 million workers in Germany this would appear to be badly needed, if the latest statistics for sickness absence rates are to be believed. According to information from the German 'Institute for Work and Occupational Research' (IAB), last year German workers took on average 10 days sick leave. This is not exactly cheap. The cost of these lost days last year is estimated to have been 129 billion euros.
Expensive for employers: loyalty and a sense of duty in the event of sickness
But that's not all. How often have you dragged yourself to work feeling really under the weather? Many people suffer at work due to a false sense of loyalty, a feeling of duty or fear of being sacked, although they are seldom doing their employer a favour. Because a study by the consultancy firm "Booz & Company" has shown that this type of behaviour can cause considerably more damage. Those who come to work when sick are less efficient, are likely to make more mistakes and expose themselves to a higher accident risk. Booz & Company estimates the cost of this to the German economy to be 225 billion euros.
Stress-related sickness is increasing sharply
According to DAK, one of Germany's leading health insurance companies, musculoskeletal conditions continue to be the most common cause of sickness - representing 21.7 percent of all sick days, followed by respiratory illness (16.6 percent) and mental illness (16.2 percent), caused by depression, burnout and other stress-related illnesses. In a Google search the term "burnout" produces 68 million results - "Santa Claus" on the other hand only reaches 60 million.
This is good enough reason for making rest and relaxation an important Christmas present - to let body and soul rest and recharge your batteries. Incidentally, physical and mental relaxation are very closely related and mutually enhancing. Make the holidays a refreshing break with our 10-point plan:
Plan to enjoy things without regret!
If just looking at the turkey and Christmas pudding gives you a bad conscience then the enjoyment is gone. Forget counting calories and make a conscious decision to enjoy food over the holidays. You're also allowed to eat more chocolate - ideally one containing more than 70% cocoa fat, since this contains iron, magnesium and antioxidants that are good for the blood count and bones.
Sleep a lot - above all correctly!
Give your body sufficient sleep once again, because this is the basis for fitness and health. About seven hours is generally sufficient. For a good night's sleep it's advisable to go to bed each night at around the same time (if possible), eliminate noise disturbances and sleep with a room temperature of around 18C.
Organise the day according to your body clock!
Use your days off without appointments to follow your own body clock. We all have one, but it doesn't tick the same way with everyone. It's how your body tells you when it needs a break. We generally experience a low around lunchtime, sometimes as early as 9.00am and most probably in the late afternoon. Don't try to fight it - take a break instead.
Spend time with your family and friends!
Although after the meeting marathon of the last few weeks you may not want to see anyone, meeting friends and family to talk about things other than winning new customers or the level of orders will put things in perspective, and make you aware of the fact that there are important things in life other than work.
Take regular exercise that is also fun!
Overcome any lack of willpower. Sport and exercise are great for coping with stress. Provided you don't put yourself under pressure to perform. 30 to 40 minutes of an easy endurance sport such as jogging or walking reduces tension and increases energy reserves. There's a good bet you'll be able to fell (Christmas) trees afterwards!
Learn ways of reducing stress!
You may get used to relaxing between Christmas and New Year, but normal working life resumes by the second week of January at the latest. So these quiet days are ideal for familiarising yourself with ways of relaxing and reducing stress. For example, you could try autogenic training, progressive muscle relaxation or special breathing exercises. If there's still room on your Christmas list, a CD or book on this subject would be a very appropriate gift.
Enjoy a cup to tea now and again!
There's reason behind the saying 'Have a cup of tea and think about it' - it can nip hectic situations in the bud. Many upsets can be cured in just a few quiet moments with the right tea. But not just the traditional 'cuppa': peppermint tea, for example, helps overcome that low feeling after a meal. Ginseng helps with fatigue, mate refreshes and invigorates; hops, valerian and lemon balm help with nerves, irritableness and insomnia. It's best to get some professional advice from a chemist or health-food store.
Putting off making those unpleasant decisions will mean you are unable to relax during the holidays. Worries and preoccupations also sap our energy. Start by making a list of all things that weigh heavily on your mind and try to work through it step by step. Talking to your partner or friends often helps.
Get some sunshine, even on grey days!
Sunlight supplies the body with energy. Feeling lethargic and tired in Autumn and Winter is not without reason. But even when the sun does not manage to break through the cloud on grey days, it is still much better to be outside with 3,000 lux than at home (500 - 600 lux). So take a short walk every day. If this is not sufficient: special lights are available with 2,500 lux that will make you feel bright again.
Want to, not have to!
Finally, now the most important thing: Be relaxed about relaxing. Those trying too hard to feel well, by meticulously working through every point in our plan, are more likely to achieve the opposite. Enjoy the holidays and get away from the idea of HAVING to do something.
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