Manage Your Holiday Stress (Part One)
Eight professionals tell you how to get through the holiday season feeling merry and bright
Each year, the holiday season seems to begin earlier and wiz by faster. When I was a kid the appearance of Santa in the Macy’s®Thanksgiving Day Parade marked the official start of the holiday season. Not anymore. This year many of my local stores were jammed with Christmas merchandise before we even finished with Halloween.
I love the holidays, everyone seems just a little bit nicer and there’s a sprinkle of magic in the air. On the down side, it is becoming increasingly stressful. With this in mind, I asked several stress-management professionals how we can alleviate some of the holiday stress that comes with this time of the year. Here are a few of the tips they shared with me.
Debbie Mandel, MA author of Addicted to Stress: A Woman’s 7-Step Program to Reclaim Joy and Spontaneity in Life and host of a weekly wellness radio show. Visit her website www.turnonyourinnerlight.com
- See your life as a Divine comedy. Use humor to reinterpret situations.
- Cut down on stimulants like alcohol, coffee, nicotine, sugar and white processed foods which will stress you out even more.
- Try three minutes of calming auto-hypnosis at your desk.
- Exercise to get rid of stress hormones, raise endorphins and increase energy-can be done at the office
- Get out into the afternoon light for even ten minutes. These holidays are stressful because of seasonal affective disorder.
- If you are strapped for cash, give of yourself to others-“redeemable coupons” of things you will do or include people in.
- And most importantly-lower your expectations!!
Janelle Barlow, Ph.D. author of the The Stress Manager, A Complaint Is a Gift, The Stress Manager Mind Flexors, I and II.
- Understand that everything you do over the holidays is a choice. You may not make everyone happy by refusing to participate in every event to which you are invited, but it still is your choice. They will forget it pretty quickly if you don’t attend every event. Because there are so many obligations that everyone faces, “another obligation” is a good excuse to use to get out of attending six million parties. So, choose carefully.
- Taking a trip to a resort or spa is a great thing to do over the holidays, because there aren’t too many people who go to these places. Yet, they are beautifully decorated.
- If you find social gatherings uncomfortable, ask someone you know very well to come along with you. That can make it much easier. It’s one of the reasons why people invite their spouses to attend large business events.
- Remember, this is not the time of the year to take on new big projects. You have a lot to deal with just to get through the last two weeks of the year with all the celebrations. Start the new project at the beginning of the year.
Dan Johnston, Ph.D. clinical psychologist and author of Lessons for Living: Simple Solutions for Life’s Problems.
- This year set the goal of having a “good enough” holiday. Often we create unreasonably high expectations for what the holidays should bring and are disappointed when our visions of joyous, conflict-free times are not realized. We hope for a “Currier and Ives” holiday that is picture postcard perfect. This year, don’t strive for perfection. Instead, consider these questions: “What would make your holiday ‘good enough?’ What would truly satisfy you? When it is all over, what would you feel good about having done?”
- Having a “good enough” holiday does not mean doing nothing. It requires plans to be made and actions to be taken. A “good enough” holiday is not an excuse to withdraw from celebration but is an attempt to set realistically appropriate goals. If you choose not to celebrate, it can lead to later regret over lost opportunities.
- Don’t risk such regret but rather take responsibility for your holiday. Take charge and give yourself a “good enough” holiday. Remember: “good enough” is okay. Perfection is not required.
Sarah B. Warren, Ph.D. is a career/business coach in Chicago who specializes in helping professionals manage their complex lives and careers. Visit her website www.multicoach.org
- Say “no” to commitments when possible. Remember to take a 5 minute breather every day to restore yourself. For instance, park your car further from the office so you can walk a few minutes, or walk around the block at lunch, even walk around in your office building if it’s cold out. Or, drive your car to a park on the way to or from work; sit for five minutes, no radio, no cell phone, and just breathe. Five short minutes can go a long way toward re-energizing.
- If family tensions are running high, focus on someone you can enjoy, such as a young niece or nephew. If it’s hard to find a family member to have an enjoyable conversation with, get busy– help serve food, or clean up. You’ll be distracted and you’ll make a contribution. Watch your alcohol intake. A couple of drinks might seem like a nice stress reliever, but drinking can actually escalate emotions, and can make you feel down.
- See the office party as an opportunity to spend some informal time forging a contact with a colleague that could be useful to your career development. You don’t have to just talk shop to make such a connection– it’s the relationship itself that can be useful. And it works both ways– you never know who you may be able to help at some point. Plan things to talk about in advance; choose topics that are of general interest– movies, books, a current event, kids. (People love to talk about their kids.) It’s easy to start a conversation by asking someone if they’ve seen a movie that you’re just seen. Again, watch the alcohol. Even if alcohol is flowing freely and some people are getting intoxicated, it’s never a good idea to drink to excess in a work environment
Read Manage Your Holiday Stress (Part Two)