A new study has found that shunning work over the festive period is critical to avoid exhaustion.

Stress piles up after a long year running your clinic, work breaks are crucial to re-setting the physiological response to stress, and may even have lasting effects on health and wellness. Dutch researchers investigating the effects of vacationing have seen that short vacations (4-5 days) can have just as positive effects on health and wellbeing as longer vacations (9 days).

However, the afterglow of a tropical vacation will not last very long so frequent breaks throughout the year are recommended. And it’s crucial to keep work off your holiday schedule, otherwise, you won’t be as likely to benefit from the health benefits.

Amid all the festivities, find time for yourself. The hardest part about relaxing is the expectation that you should be relaxing. It then becomes a chore in itself, another task that you need to make time for. Remember, relaxing is not the same as doing nothing because this usually results in your mind stumbling across all the things you need to prepare for in January.

I have found two things help to put aside niggling worries. The first is accepting that there are things you have to do; be realistic and set aside a couple of hours to complete some small tasks.

You also need to set aside some time for you, which can be harder to achieve. Christmas can become a time for keeping other people happy. If you have children, agree with your partner (or with yourself) that after the kids are in bed you will watch that film you wanted to see or go for a walk alone. This is not selfishness or being anti-social, it is vital self-reflection time.

Give your routine a big shake-up. You don’t have to go away to have a break.  If you’re staying at home over Christmas make sure you give your usual routine a miss and instead mix things up.   It’s often the little things that can make a big difference, so go out for dinner or order takeaway, leave the washing-up until tomorrow, enjoy a lay in, or spend the day on the sofa watching trashy TV …. anything that’s different to your usual schedule.

Get outside. It’s time to fill those lungs with fresh air and spend some time under the elements, you’ve just spent all year indoors in your clinic.  Get back to basics, and be a big kid again.  Play cricket, organise a BBQ, go for a run, take the kids to the farm, have a romantic picnic, get out on a boat…. the list goes on, and none of them are expensive or difficult to arrange.

Get laughing. Do something that makes you lose your breath from laughing so hard, it’s one of the best ways to relax and recharge. Consciously hunt out ways to get yourself giggling and enjoy the wonderful effects that laughing has, which include increased happiness, intimacy, a stronger immune system, a boost in energy, diminished pain and a reduction in the damaging effects of stress.