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The holiday season is fast approaching. Like many people, I think the weeks from Thanksgiving to New Year’s are the best time of the year. It’s a season filled with fun and festivities. And everyone seems just a little bit nicer.
Realistically, I know it’s also one of the most stressful times of the year. In addition to our already hectic schedules now we’re attending office parties, shopping for gifts, and entertaining family and friends.
To help you make the most of the upcoming season, we asked two stress-management experts to offer some advice: Dr. Tammy Nelson, Founder and Director of the Center for Healing in Norwalk, CT and author of Getting the Sex You Want: Shed Your Inhibitions and Reach New Heights of Passion Together and What’s Eating You?: A Workbook for Teens with Anorexia, Bulimia, and other Eating Disorders; and Kathleen Peterson, principal, Equinox Associates, Niles, IL.
CI: Our business lives are already hectic. Holiday activities – the office party (yours and theirs), networking at the professional organization, scrambling to finish projects by the end of the year – only add to the stress. What can we do to reduce stress in our 9 to 5 lives?
TN: First, ACCEPT that this time of year is STRESSFUL! The expectation we have of ourselves to “perform” is in direct proportion to the amount of stress we experience during the holidays. If we have high expectations of ourselves to “get it all done,” we put enormous pressure on ourselves, which creates stress. This adds a frenetic, hurried feeling to the holidays, which tends to speed up the clock and make us feel that there is less time for everything, including work, networking and office parties!
Being mindful, focusing on one thing at a time, staying in the moment, all help to slow down the rush and decrease the stress in our bodies and in our minds! One trick to help focus when you feel stressed at work or during holiday related activities is to look at your feet, notice where they are, and focus your energy at that place for a moment, really grounding yourself in the present place. This can help with anxiety and stress, and keep us from feeling too rushed!
KP: Our 9 to 5 lives are rarely 9 to 5! But at holiday time it seems there’s an infinite number of additional activities to pack into our already hectic schedules. Remember the 80/20 rule (20% of your effort will generate 80% of your results) when determining the holiday events you must attend. There are some functions we must go to, regardless of our feelings but there are others we can say no to. Take the time to check in mentally and think about each function and its importance to your career, your friendships, and your family.
Also be realistic about your health. If you really need to go home and rest, it¹s better to do just that rather than risk getting ill. Winter is a time of more colds and flu. And maybe weather, seasonal changes etc. play a role in our feeling under the weather but maybe it¹s a socially acceptable way to take a break!
CI: We’re already juggling our personal and professional lives. The holidays bring additional duties like sending cards, entertaining friends, shopping for gifts and decorating our homes. Unfortunately, being overextended adds a lot of stress to the season. How can we get everything done and still have fun?
TN: Like any good manager, DELEGATE! And like any good friend, SHARE! Most women are wonderful at “multi-tasking.” We can write the cards, make the cookies and wrap the presents all at the same time. But wouldn’t the cookies come out better if someone else wrapped the presents? How about combining the entertaining with wrapping? Have a wrapping party, or a shopping outing with “the girls.” Consider this your seasonal “get together” for your closest friends, adding lunch or coffee and then none of you feel overextended!
And, of course, SPECIALIZE! Find something that you are good at, and focus on that task or gift. If you make great pies, give them as gifts, but forgo the cards this year. If you know about fine wines, be “famous” for bringing the good wine to all the gatherings, but don’t wrap the bottles! Let yourself be known for the great cookies and no one will mind if the office isn’t decorated!
KP: We make lists and strategies for many areas of our life. This year make a “holiday success list” of the activities close to your heart. These are the things that are most important to you. Keep it close at hand, so you can remind yourself what’s really important when you’re feeling stressed!
Start planning your holiday strategy as early as possible. If you send holiday cards/gifts to clients, friends and family print the labels now so they’ll be ready for your mailings. If your schedule is too full, declare that you won¹t be sending cards this year. You¹ll probably have to spend some time forgiving yourself but your friends and loved ones will understand!
CI: What is the most important thing to remember during the holiday season? What’s the one thing you would recommend to help us really enjoy the season?
TN: Remember to “give of yourself,” don’t “give yourself away.” No one can pour from an empty pitcher. Taking care of yourself during this hectic time is essential in order to maintain a sense of balance in your work and home life. Finding ways to care for your body, mind and spirit may include taking walks, getting a massage, going to counseling, listening to music, lighting candles…. Replenishing yourself will allow you to avoid the pitfalls of stress and burnout from the holidays, including weight gain, illness, overspending, overdrinking, and family tension.
This is a time of year to help others, to focus on those less fortunate than ourselves and to be grateful for the blessings in our lives. First, take a moment to be generous to yourself. Take a deep breath, relax, and have a happy, healthy holiday!
KP: Remember to enjoy the simple company of your loved ones! When you feel yourself being stressed about any part of the holidays or year-end responsibilities, stop and ask yourself, “In the scheme of life, is this as important as I¹m currently making it? If my life ended tomorrow, would this have mattered?”
Next, close your eyes and take three very slow, deep breathes and think of the most joyous thought you can think of. Then open your eyes and re-evaluate how you want to handle the next moment.
The pace of the season is always more accelerated than our already hectic lives. But, this exercise will revitalize and help you get back into action, with an increased level of calm and happiness. Whether you find a loved one to hug or take this moment to sit in your favorite chair, choose to make it a joyous time for you!
CI: Happy Holidays!!!