14 ways to wind down for the approaching holidays

It's three weeks until Christmas Day. Whether you're planning a festive bonanza or just a few presents between friends, here's how to wind up at work and wind down into the festive spirit...
 Relaxing by warm fire with a cup of hot drink. Photo: Shutterstock
Relaxing by warm fire with a cup of hot drink. Photo: Shutterstock

1. Create the ultimate to-do list

It's a well-known productivity hack: get the hard stuff out of the way first. Compile a to-do list to end all to-do lists: everything you need to cover before you can finish for the festive break. Be brutal: whatever can wait for the New Year should. Don't try to take on too much, as you'll end up rushed. Use a written list you can scrawl on, a task management app (Wunderlist is my go to) or whatever works for you. Include a plan for the first week of January too: you don't want to return to an avalanche of work. 

Once complete, make a schedule (with a few hours here and there for tasks which inevitably crop up) and stick to it like glue. Get it right, and your last few days in the office should be stress-free, leaving you with plenty of time to daydream about the presents awaiting you under the tree... 

If you're taking a trip this Christmas, don't miss our complete pre-travel checklist. It covers everything you need to complete before taking that all important holiday. 


2. Make the most of the party season

Work parties, seeing friends for festive drinks, meeting up with the in-laws... There are plenty of opportunities to get into the Christmas spirit with a number of socials going on at this time of year. Take full advantage of this happy, celebratory period: it will help you wind down and enjoy the holidays even more. 


3. Take part in Christmas Jumper Day (in the UK)

You've seen them before, the cringe-worthy jumpers adorned with penguins, Father Christmas' elves, snowmen and, well, anything vaguely festive. In the UK, we're avid supporters of Christmas Jumper Day. Held on 15th December every year, in order to raise money for Save the Children, it's a fantastic excuse to don your cheesiest jumper in the name of charity. It's a chance to be a little silly in the office too by wearing your favourite festive woolly to work. Get involved: christmasjumperday.org (the Insight Guides team are!).


4. Crank up the Christmas tunes 

So you're wearing festive clothes and you know what needs to be completed before you can sign-off. What should accompany you on your last few days or hours in the office? A few classic Christmas tunes! Mariah Carey? Slade? Michael Bublé? Whatever hits your high note, get it on the radio and sing through your final few hours at your desk. (Note: Insight Guides takes no responsibility for the lack of productivity that may occur after this time or the annoyance caused to your colleagues.) We're pretty sure a sing-a-long will help your Christmas spirit.


5. Breeze through festive shopping chaos

It's Christmas time, there's no need to be afraid... Unless you're taking on the crowds of Christmas shoppers. My advice here? The best way to take on this challenge is to be organised. Whether you're trawling shopping malls or ordering online, having a list and sticking to it will help you complete your Christmas shopping in no time at all. And there's nothing more Christmassy than sipping on mulled wine and wrapping up a present or two in the days running up to the 25th. You'll feel festive in no time at all...


6. Simply do a little less 

As you wind down in the office, there should be fewer projects to work on, deadlines will be met and people (should) avoid giving you more work to do, leaving you with less and less. Your last few days spent in the office should be lighter and lighter, allowing you to ease through and complete the small tasks left. Either that or while away your hours Googling 'cats in Christmas jumpers' and scouting out the best Christmas-themed GIFs. We're sure that will help you wind down.


7. Log out of all accounts

Once you've ticked off all of those tasks, one of the most satisfying things on this list, is closing down your programmes and signing out of those daily accounts. This gives a finality of sorts to your working day and the sweet satisfaction of knowing you won't be returning for a while can help you relax no end. 


Leave all your accounts behind this Christmas! Photo: ShutterstockLog out of all your professional accounts during the Christmas countdown. Photo: Shutterstock 


8. Ensure there are decorations galore

Decking out your home or workplace in Christmas kit is bound to have you feeling festive. Whether it's with a few fairy lights or a full-blown, tinsel-covered tree, the shimmering, twinkling decorations add a little fun and offer a more relaxing atmosphere. They're also a reminder that... Christmas is coming!


9. Take an extra day 

We know that Christmas is a bit of a crazy time of year, with manic shoppers and frantic last-minute to-dos. Taking an extra day off before the festivities begin means you get a quick break between work finishing and the celebrations starting to recheck you're ready, and to sort out any last-minute mishaps. If you're on schedule, you can also take the extra time to simply relax: take a spa day, a long walk or an afternoon by a cosy pub fire. Whatever helps you to relax, make sure you're doing it this Christmas. 


10. Be the hostess with the most-ess

Planning to host guests this Christmas? Whether you're cooking on the big day itself or having a party on NYE, pre-planning your event will ensure it goes off without a hitch. Plan what you're going to cook and when, prep food in advance, and have games, quizzes or competitions organised too (my personal favourite is Heads Up!). 

There's no doubt that having this ready to roll will get you excited for the approaching holidays. 


11. Post envy-inducing snaps on social media

Ah, one of the modern day favourites. Once you're done in the office and are all ready at home, the best way to wind down is with a photo of your Christmas celebrations: #mulledwinetime #wintersun #Christmasishere. Showing off to your followers back home or colleagues trapped in the office might lose you some friends but it sure is satisfying. Hashtag yours with #insightguides and we'll repost our favourites!


12. Then go tech free

Once you're done with boasting, the ultimate way to wind down is by switching off and going tech, mobile and device free. No texts, no Twitter, no SnapChat. Au naturel, if you like. Taking a break from your screens will give your mind the time it needs to really recharge.


13. Plan your next adventure 

You're almost ready for the festivities and you're positively glowing with glee. What's left? We think you should plan your next holiday: one to open 2017 with a bang. Having something to look forward to in the New Year will undoubtedly banish those winter blues that will creep up after Christmas has passed. Talk to Insight Guides local experts to get your next holiday in the diary: submit a trip request today


14. And return home at long last!

"To me, the Christmas wind-down only begins when I've survived the last cramped commute of the year, and I'm safely on the train home," says our own Tom Fleming, Insight Guides digital content executive and avid Christmas jumper fan. "The packed train pulls away, creaking and swaying, and heads off into the night, leaving the city lights behind. Nearly half of the passengers get off at the first stop, and I finally get a seat to myself and stretch out. The further west the train goes, the emptier it gets, the darker the night sky becomes and I finally begin to feel like it's Christmas."


What are you waiting for? Get those cheesy tunes on, your final tasks ticked-off and well-and-truly into the Christmas spirit. Share your favourite ways to get into the holiday mode below in our comments section. 


All of us here at Insight Guides would like to wish you a joy and cheer this festive season, and a very Happy New Year!


Want to escape the approaching holiday madness? Take a trip to the best of the winter sun with Insight Guides

Browse available holidays online now or talk to a local expert to create your dream (Christmas-free) trip today


This article was originally published December 13, 2016