How public servants can switch off from work over the festive break

By on 16/12/2021 | Updated on 02/02/2022

After another stressful year, it is more important than ever that public servants make the most of breaks from work. GGF trainer Danielle Littlejohn shares her tips of how best to relax, even if you are isolating from COVID-19

A lot of people have been feeling the pressure over recent months, and that is only going to increase as the Omicron variant of COVID-19 rages through England. We fear that we could miss another Christmas or at least have increased social limitations again next year, desperate as we all are for some respite.

The last two years have brought many changes and challenges – reduced income for many people, uncertainty about keeping their roles for others, and lack of personal daily interaction with colleagues in work contexts, or with friends in our social time.

Working from home saves us on travel time but we are still often expected to work this additional time, regardless of the challenges and distractions it has created for us. Whether that be childcare issues, limited space for working in your house, or the claustrophobia of being in the same space constantly, we have all of us found our own difficulties crop up over the last 20 months.

What has been your biggest challenge? Putting on weight due to lack of exercise? Too much home schooling? Not enough quality time with the kids? Too much time surrounded by family? Or too many cancelled treats such as holidays?

Whatever your own personal challenges, we have to accept that hybrid structures and some of the changes  to our working lives are here to stay. Many of us have found it even harder to switch off from work at the moment, often due at least in part to working from home rather than in a physically separate workspace.

So, to battle the virus and stay thoroughly healthy through this pandemic we need to recognise the importance of unwinding properly.

Mindfulness is greatly extolled as the healthy way to relax, and many people have taken an interest in it, who might otherwise never have considered taking the time to investigate what it means, and how it can help you. There are numerous short videos on YouTube that you can check out on how to approach the subject and its benefits for you. They are definitely worth checking out if you have heard of the concept, but you are still not sure how to go about doing anything about it. But if the idea of that seems like another job at the end of a long day’s work, or like me you feel you have practised it thoroughly over the year and are looking for a little relief over the holiday period, then let’s explore five ways we can relax in a fun, festive, healthy way over the next few weeks. Here are some ways to enjoy some of the yuletide spirit that was sorely lacking last year and embrace the break ahead while looking after our physical and mental health.

Enjoy some festive music

A living room dance or sing song is very popular with the kids and it gets everyone moving and laughing and can even be enjoyed if you are having to isolate. You can’t be thinking about your email in-tray if you’re having to sing along with your family. It’s a simple, fun way to relax and to engage your mind wholly on something other than work.

Play some games

Whether your family and friends are the types that enjoy a game of Monopoly, charades or even a few rounds of Words against Humanity. I greatly believe in the benefits of being busy with the people you love chatting and connecting with. In my family we have a few ancient card games that have been passed down from older generations but still tend to get wheeled out in the festive period. Another great one if you are stuck inside due to weather or illness. And there are lots of quiz games that you can play in your own home with just your close family, or over a Zoom call with friends who you’re not able to see in person. It’s a great way to be together and spend time remotely if you’ve run out of things to chat about, and it takes your mind off everything else for a while, which is a huge benefit. Even in thinking terms, a change is as good as a rest.


While I have never been a great baker, Christmas always feels like an excuse for sugary treats and it can be a fun way to spend time. Whether you have a full house and need to entertain the kids or if there are just one or two of you, pulling together a batch of mince pies, some rocky road or a tray of baklava (all successfully created in my kitchen in previous years) it’s a great way to enjoy some time in the kitchen while pulling together some simple presents for friends, or yummy treats for you and your family to enjoy. And again, it requires you to concentrate on a fun activity, that necessarily takes your mind off anything work-related that might be creeping into your thoughts.

Arts and crafts

Whether you are an accomplished knitter or cross-stitcher (my mother has been churning out some rather professional-looking cushions over the last couple of years when traditionally she is anything but artistic) it can be a very pleasant, productive and even a meditative way to enjoy some spare time at home even if you can’t get out. And it requires you to concentrate, not in a tiring, intellectual way, but to use your mind in a way that excludes professional considerations.

Out and about

For those able to leave the house, there are lots of more social pursuits we can still enjoy. I am looking forward to getting out for a Christmas market, with a friend(s), my partner, or the whole family. Getting out for a little walk and fresh air (the benefits of that activity on its own really cannot be over-stated), enjoying the lights and even partaking of a mulled wine or two. I highly recommend a hot chocolate with baby marshmallows, if you a not a fan of a tipple. We know that drinking too much can create more stress and mental struggle but personally I enjoy a little Christmas drink in moderation!

So let me wish you all a happy, healthy, relaxing seasonal holiday.

Global Government Forum organise training seminars on a range of subjects that cover working more effectively and less stressfully in remote and hybrid environments.

Wellbeing and Stress – Building Resilience in Remote, Hybrid and Office-Based Teams

Emotional Intelligence at Work

The whole range of our remote team management and personal performance seminars can be found on our website here: Civil Service Learning | Global Government Forum

About Danielle Littlejohn

Danielle Littlejohn provides a range of professional development courses as part of Global Government Forum’s training portfolio. Courses she runs include Delivering Results at Work – Essential Success Skills for New Managers, Creating and Growing a Productive Team – Interviewer Skills and Breaking Through the Glass Ceiling.


  1. Jon Stewart says:

    Great article. I think the proof reader missed something in the following paragraph:
    We fear that we could miss another Christmas or at least have increased social limitations again next year, desperate as we all are for some rest bite.
    Don’t you mean ‘respite’, not ‘rest bite’?
    Have a great holiday.

    • Mia Hunt says:

      Hi Jon. Thank you for your comment and for drawing our attention to the grammatical error. It has been changed.

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