How to handle holiday stress and still enjoy the season

Happy holidays! ’Tis the season — are we jolly, or are we stressed with the rush of trying to get everything done?

I can’t believe that it’s December already. I’m pretty sure that I’m not alone in wondering where the year went. It’s hard to believe that there’s only a couple weeks left to complete all the things we planned to accomplish this year, when it seems like we just sat down to make a game plan a few short months ago in January.

According to the American Psychological Association, during this time of year with deadlines looming, many folks experience heightened stress, including in the workplace. At a recent breakfast get-together, several business friends were discussing how to handle everything that has to be done and still have a happy season. Here are some ideas that came from these power people:

  • Take breaks. Breathe. Build a couple quiet times into the day whenever possible. Meditate, go for a walk, and figure out ways to wind down.
  • Make choices on how to divide your time between work and personal matters.
  • Determine what absolutely, positively must get done, and postpone anything that can wait. We all tend to overextend ourselves at this time of year.
  • Exercise. Experts say that the best way to overcome stress during the holidays, or any time or year, is to exercise regularly. Research has shown that getting physical can elevate a feel-good mood and get rid of holiday depression and fatigue.
  • Eat healthier. Temptations are great at this time of year; however, folks who eat healthier foods seem to be more focused, energetic, and happy. While it’s oh so difficult to avoid comfort foods and drinks, my very healthy friends insist it’s worthwhile.

End of the year business demands and client deadlines, plus holiday-shortened timelines can take a toll during the season. According to surveys I’ve seen, 44% of productivity drops off the week before any holiday — and the upcoming holidays are the big ones. Holiday burn out plays a big role. Organizations can help by allowing for more flexible schedules to accommodate outside activities, like being able to attend children’s holiday performances. Longer lunch breaks can help with holiday shopping — if you want to subject yourself to the traffic and other stresses of lunch-hour shopping, that is. A study by Accenture found that 54% of surveyed workers said that having flexible hours during the holidays would help them alleviate stress. Additionally, 26% wanted the ability to telecommute during the seasonal rush.

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One member of our breakfast group said they knew of companies that allowed team members to shop online during work breaks. Personally, I’m a firm believer in shopping locally, so I would lobby either for longer lunch periods or a “shopping day off” to complete the tasks on the list.

Soon the holidays will be over and your business and personal life will return to “normal.” The end of December will find us ready to turn the page, get the New Year’s goals and deadlines set, create a new vision board, and make resolutions that may or may not last the whole year.

For now, I’m taking a cue from my business friends. I’m making my list and checking it twice to make sure everything gets done before the big days ahead. I plan to concentrate on just what I can do, and let go of what I can’t. One thing I can do, right here, is to wish a very happy holiday season to everyone!

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