How to avoid Christmas Brain this holiday season

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We’re barely into the holiday season and already the tubs of Roses are out, your co-workers are singing Winter Wonderland under their breath, and all anyone is talking about is the Christmas party. Attempting to crack on with work when you swear you can already smell turkey can become an uphill climb, with over ½ of British employees admitting to being distracted at work as early as November.

Researchers have recently found that this ‘Christmas brain’ factor could actually be an inevitable fact of life, with a 2015 BMJ study writing, “there is a ‘Christmas spirit’ network in the human brain, comprising several critical areas”. When presented with festive images, the researchers found a distinct reaction in these critical areas, from the participants who actively celebrated Christmas.

So when science is working against us, how do we fight a brain that is longing to celebrate the holidays?

Experts suggest that we step away from multi-tasking, with former Google CIO, Douglas Merril, writing, “Unfortunately our brains just aren’t equipped for multi-tasking that does require brainpower.” Unfortunately, that means that no matter how late you are with your Christmas shopping, attempting to plan out your gift giving whilst at work is only going to hinder your ability to crack on with the job-at-hand. Despite this however, 2 in 5 of us still admit to shopping online during our work hours. Instead of succumbing to the masses, why not save up a few vacation days throughout the year and use them to clear through some of your necessary purchases?

When we know we’re going to be taking a longer break than usual, it’s easy to avoid any large tasks and focus on the little stuff, however, Casey Moore, Productivity Coach, suggests this will just make coming back harder than it already is. In fact, research has shown that the negative emotions we feel after the festivities end, coupled with new irregular sleep patterns, can leave us feeling similar symptoms to jetlag. Moore suggests that to counteract this you should attempt to clean your slate in December, so that when January comes round, “you’ll be ready to start the New Year running, instead of crawling.”

Although it’s not ideal, businesses are coming to the realization that productivity will inevitably lull, and are instead using this time of year to promote team bonding and community spirit, so much so in fact that 1/5th of us say workplace festivities are to blame for their distracted attitude. Dan Rogers, Co-Founder of Peakon, writes that we should, “acknowledge that this dip is inevitable and plan around it. Think of it as a time to regroup as a team, gather feedback on the progress you have made during the year and plan how it will continue in January.”

Despite our bosses becoming more onboard with the occasional lark, it doesn’t mean we should push their festive spirit to the limit. The figures show that a significant amount of us indulge in behaviours we’d normally snub during the holiday period, with 22% of men and 11% of women admitting to indulging in a Christmas tipple, whilst still at work. Moore suggests that not only could this be a breach of contract, but could also lead to low quality work, even the next day, writing, “the increase in sugary foods and alcoholic beverages will impact you the next day at work, mentally and physically.”

The CEO at Distilled sums up the issue perfectly, suggesting that a mutual level of respect and trust between both employer and employee is critical at this time of year, writing;

“At Distilled, we don’t try to fight it too much- with flexibility for shopping, the odd long lunch, and generally trusting the team to plan their time. We might take a bit of a hit this time of the year, but we trust our team and we know it balances out over time.”

So, treat yourself to the chocolates and occasional carol sing-a-long, avoid being part of the 21% that feel burnt out, and maybe dodge being a naughty elf by keeping the drinks to after-hours.