Pic by Hernan Sanchez

Holidays are a two-edged sword.

We all look forward to taking a break, to having quality time to decant and recover. But then, once they are over, we get to realize how completely unplugging from our good habits and behaviors, might damage our chances to succeed.

I see this a lot. Those who tend to over-work tend to over-disconnect during breaks or holidays. To solve the work-rest tension, balance is the best solution. Instead of jumping from one extreme to the other, remember that life is not a sprint but a marathon. Stamina is good but endurance is what counts the most for the long run.

Working too much ruins our productivity: our ability to do our best work gets destroyed by stress, lack of objectivity or simply feeling tired. On the other hand, if you let go of positive behaviors, you are putting your long-term performance at risk. It can take you weeks, or even months, after the Holidays to get back to your prior level of performance.

Breaking Your Cadence Can Ruin Your Potential

I’m an avid road biker. But when winter arrives in Chicago, it gets almost impossible to bike outside. I must either shorten my rides or spend more hours biking indoor to make sure I stay fit. Either way, even though I push myself, my overall performance drops during the winter time. When I literally get back on the road, it takes me some time to get back to my best performance.

Like regular exercise, good sleep and continuous learning are critical to refuel our bodies and minds. But, most important, to build a strong performance foundation. Being conscious of your cadence is critical if you want to be a successful changemaker. Cadence increases our chances to perform well in longer rides.

Regular exercise is not only good for your body it also has a positive impact on your brain. It decreases stress, helping build a more positive attitude towards life. And what’s more important, regular exercise also improves memory and thinking skills.

You might slow down but don’t give up exercising during the break. Most people’s bodies start losing strength after about two and a half weeks of inactivity, according to Molly Galbraith, co-founder of Girls Go Strong. Though power athlete’s strength is less affected, they lose a significant amount of slow-twitch muscle fibers that they worked so hard to build, as quoted on Greatist.com.

Work Hard and Sleep Tight

Sleep is one of the most important activities you can do. Even though it feels you are not doing anything, sleep plays an important role in your health. It’s not just good for recovery but also helps to repair our heart and blood vessels. A good night sleep refreshes our creativity. Some powerful research shows why we might be at our most creatives when we are still emerging from the realm of sleep.

During this break, stick to your wake-up time like glue. Sleeping more than 90 minutes than our regular wake-up will affect our body clock, according, to Helene Emsellem, director of the Center for Sleep and Wake Disorders in Chevy Chase. Thus, not really benefiting from a good night sleep.

Never Stop Learning

“Learning without reflection is a waste, reflection without learning is dangerous” — Confucius

We all look forward to our holiday break but then, once it’s over, we feel guilty, wanting to recover from the effects of the break. Be mindful and aim for balance. Like exercise, giving our mind a complete break can have a devastating effect.

Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Outliers” describes the negative impact that summer breaks can have on children’s learning, especially among those from lower income households. When they are attending school, no one is overseeing their education or encouraging them to continue reading. If kids cannot take inspirational vacations, join clubs or play educational games, their break becomes a full disadvantage.

A break is a perfect time to decant but also a nice opportunity to work on projects that we never make time for. I’ve been procrastinating my KitchenThief recipe website for years. Last year’s holiday break turned into the perfect occasion for me to build it. I wrote and uploaded 40 recipes in just three days. I knew nothing about coding so I turned the holiday break in a great opportunity to learn new skills and to experiment. With fewer distractions and most people busy in doing nothing, holidays can turn into a unique opportunity for deep focus work.

Give Yourself a Break

I too long for this holiday break. And I will relax, eat, drink and, most probably, procrastinate too.

Yet I’m fully committed to keep nurturing the resilience needed to deal with the surprises and unexpected turns of my life. I will keep building my endurance for the long run. Change requires courage and energy.

Be curious. Make time for exploration. Read more, watch less TV. Learn to do something you always wanted to. Meet new people, choose a new route to go to the usual places. Get lost and discover new places.

Be generous. Share your knowledge. Help others. Help yourself by taking a break from toxic behaviors.

Be smart. Take care of your body. Drink and eat mindfully. The guilt associated with overeating dramatically hurts self-esteem. Have fun. Exercise. Rest. Sleep. Your mind and body are worth it.

If you, like me, love to be an agent of change, approach the holidays with wisdom.

Enjoy your break without breaking your chances to be successful.

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