Surviving the Christmas Rush and beyond - with brain fitness principles

It's that time of year again.
The shopping malls all have their decorations up and radio jocks have been telling us since September that there are only "x" number of shopping days left until Christmas. While it's been possible to live in a blissful state of denial so far, there's no getting away from the fact that it's now December, and school holidays, end of year preparations and Christmas are coming up fast.

So how do you tackle this crazy time with all it's silliness, Jingles and Mingles? There are probably three options.

1. Fight: Tackle it head on
My colleague April*, approaches December with same military precision she devotes to all her work. Her to-do list is complete, colour coded for clarity. Christmas presents have all been bought, wrapped and labelled. Cards are written and in neat piles for family, friends and business. The dog has been booked into a kennel for while they entertain and she's just awaiting delivery of the Christmas crackers she ordered from the States which are two days late. She has this strange calm expression on her face, which I'm never quite sure what it signifies. You might call it beatific. You could also call it smug.

2. Take flight
The second option was taken up by my pal June* who has announced that she is about to head off overseas with her family for a six week sojourn to Dubai, Italy and Canada returning after Australia Day. Lucky duck.

3. Freeze: Stay still and it might go away
The third option, which is the one I seem to naturally fall into every year despite thinking that things could be different, is to assume that with 31 days in the month there is of course loads of time to get everything done. I mean we are only talking about two actual days of public holiday when everyone can sit back and relax with a nice glass of something cold and wet, stuff our faces silly with lots of good food and enjoy catching up with good friends and family. What could be easier?

The human stress response to threat is well known. It's our fight, flight or freeze reaction. Which response we adopt can vary, though you recognise we quite often respond to certain threats in a more predictable way.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.
Managing how we approach Christmas, our business or workplace at the end of the year can be a lot easier and more enjoyable with a Brain Fit strategy.

Here are five tips to hep you along the way.

1. Be prepared.
While I was never a boy scout (probably because I wasn't a boy) taking the time out to think ahead about "how do I want this to happen", takes away the stress of running around like a headless chook buying three giant circles of Brie for the Staff Christmas party that you'll end up eating until Easter and a pile of unwanted "spare" presents you bought in case you forgot someone.
A couple of hours put aside to think and talk over with your other half (if he's interested or vaguely listening), your team or your boss will help you clarify what you really for the windup towards Christmas, the holidays and beyond.

2. Indulge in moderation
If like me you're wondering why last year's cocktail dress/suit has managed to shrink in the wardrobe, it's probably a reminder to travel light (and suck it in). There are only so many Christmas parties, drinks and meals we can go to without suffering a surfeit of greasy sausage rolls, cardboard mince pies and too much booze.
Choosing to keep to your regular exercise schedule helps keep you in better shape to stay sharp and more capable of thinking clearly. At functions alternating alcoholic drinks with aqua pura keeps you hydrated and cognitively switched on. No one will notice that your sparkling beverage is actually water. And avoid turning up hungry to an event, having a light snack before hand, which makes it easier to forego that deep fried wonton or bucket of chips.

3. Sleep easy
With so much to do and so much on, it’s easy to end up exhausted and without enough sleep. That makes surviving the next day not just a headache, but much harder to do things well to the level you know you're capable of. We all need roughly
7-8 hours of good quality uninterrupted sleep every night for mood regulation, better memory, better decisions, greater insight and time to flush out all the trash that accumulates in our brain during the day. So, while it's fun to party, be a Cinderella and make sure you're up tucked in bed in reasonable time, with or without your shoes on, so you can function well the next day.

4. Delegate
Being a martyr to Christmas, helping to organise all the new policies, procedures and strategies for next year is a lot of extra work. Remember no one will acknowledge your martyrdom and they'll just assume you love the role. So if it's not what you want, don't do it. Get someone else to. If they don't want it to do it either perhaps this is a signal that it's time to do things differently. While being a fiercely independent, super coping, productive and busy person is marvellous for elsewhere, there are times (like now) when it's fine, appropriate and necessary for sanity's sake to ask for help or delegate tasks.
The fewer choices we have to make, the more mental energy we'll have left over to apply to those more important items, and avoid decision fatigue.

5. Chill.
This is a special time of year because it's a wonderful time to pause and reflect on everything you have achieved and to anticipate good things to come. It's about expressing gratitude for what you have, and for appreciating those who mean the most to you. When we are grateful, our mind can relax, we are more positive and we feel happier.
Why not treat yourself to something really nice; something you might not had time to do during the rest of the year. Like getting home on time. Taking the family out for a day's excursion? A day to spend doing non-work things: a trip to an art exhibition, a trip to the country or a night away with your partner, spouse or lover?

Ultimately it's all about choice and what works for you.
Brain fitness is about including those lifestyle choices that allow you to cope with the extra demands this time of year poses on our work and lives
What you choose determines not just whether you survive the silly season, but how you can take the silliness out of it all and enjoy a truly wonderful and happy time.

* Names have been changed to protect the innocent

Dr. Jenny Brockis, the Brain Fitness Doctor, is the founder and director of Brain Fit. She helps business leaders, senior managers and educators create a brain friendly working environment to nurture and develop all brains at work. She works as an international speaker, author, and mentor and is Mum to two gorgeous young adults. When not working she enjoys travelling the world with her husband, challenging her long-standing fear of heights.

Contact Dr. Jenny on +61 (0) 408092078 or