Global Leadership Blog

stress free for holidays

12 Stress-Free Days of Christmas: The Secrets to Managing Stress at Work (from Inc.)

It’s the time of year–the time to feel stressed! But a little awareness can go a long way.

Why is it that what’s supposed to be the jolliest time of year is riddled with stress and deadlines–personal and professional? Gifts to buy. Casseroles to bake. Family to see. Reviews to make. Quotas to meet. Deals to close…

The to-do lists get looooonger this time of year as the time to tackle it gets much, much shorter. It’s no wonder a lot of us feel like we have more in common with the Grinch than Tiny Tim. (In fact, studies show 70 percent of professionals are more stressed this time of year).

But it doesn’t have to be that way. A little awareness can go a long way.

In the spirit of the 12 days of Christmas, here are 12 unique ways to keep stress at bay this holiday season.

Sleep.

If there’s only one thing you can do to manage stress—it’s sleep. If you aren’t well rested, everything else is likely to go haywire–your mood, your diet, your exercise, your work quality.

So, prioritize it.

Don’t stay up late wrapping gifts for your co-workers. People would much rather have a happy, healthy officemate than a grump with a beautifully wrapped candle in hand.

Forgo that second cookie.

Sure, sweets are a part of the season. But there’s something you need to remember–sugar can be your enemy.

There’s really nothing good about sugar except for the taste. It’s bad for your body. It can wreak havoc on your sleep. And, it can even cause depression. Oh, and it’s addictive, too.

If you have too much sugar in a day, you’ll have a high and then crash–leaving you little energy to accomplish anything and causing your stress levels to sky rocket.

So, when you find yourself reaching for another frosted reindeer, go for a walk and wait until that dopamine level drops.

Match water with cocktails.

While on the topic of the evil of sugar, it’s worth mentioning that alcohol has sugar in it.

Too many cocktails can not only lead to bad decisions, but it can mess with your sleep and cause anxiety, stress, and depression.

While at the holiday party, think before you drink–and, drink water in between each cocktail. This will help fill you up and cushion the blow of a potential hangover.

Get moving.

Yes, you have a lot to get done. But news flash, taking time to exercise may actually energize you to get more accomplished.

If you must go shopping during your lunch break, take the full hour and walk some laps around the mall, or take a few flights of stairs each time you need to hit the restroom.

Work in a little movement in here and there, and feel some big spikes in your energy level.

Create white space.

Jeff Weiner, the CEO of LinkedIn, wrote a really great blog post on the importance of scheduling nothing. “Use that buffer time to think big, catch up on the latest industry news, get out from under that pile of unread emails, or just take a walk,” he said.

Creating white space on your calendar for yourself is a way to seize your day back, rather than let it be beholden to to-do lists, emails, and phone calls.

This time of year, use that time to reflect on the past and what you’d like to accomplish in 2018. This will help you prepare for those end-of-year performance reviews lurking around the corner.

Resist the frenzy.

People are in a rush more this time of year than ever. The hot topic of conversation is how everyone doesn’t have time to have a conversation because they are so busy.

Don’t buy the hype. Buck it. Slow down and prioritize. Look at everything you have to get done and aim to get rid of 20 percent of it by delegating, pushing it off to next year, or simply not doing it at all. You may be surprised by how rewarding that feels.

Create a helpful culture.

If you feel like you’re drowning, chances are your team feels that way, too. Talk to them about how you recognize that everyone has a lot on their plate and tell them to speak up if they need help.

Emphasize the importance of leaning on one another, and the art and magic of true collaboration.

Breathe in. Breathe out.

Don’t wait until you’re totally freaking out to start trying to calm yourself down.

Controlled breathing has been shown to reduce blood pressure, promote feelings of relaxation, and help you de-stress.

Try this simple exercise–inhale for the count of four. Then slowly exhale for a count of four. Work up to inhaling and exhaling for a count of six. Do it for five minutes a day and see how much more relaxed you are.

Manage expectations.

You have a lot to do and not as much time to do it–don’t keep that a secret. Tell your co-workers, clients, and family members about your limited availability and the potential for slower response times so they know what to expect from you.

This way you hopefully won’t be caught in a situation where everyone is making you feel like you’re disappointing them.

Tell them what’s up.

You know that saying that communication is key–well, it really is key this time of year–especially if you are working globally or in dispersed teams where colleagues and clients may not understand what holidays in the U.S. entail.

Be upfront about your schedule and capacity so they aren’t expecting to hear from you when you’re huddled by the tree feverishly trying to put together a kitchen set for your child.

Compartmentalize.

The holidays can be emotional times–the intensity of family, work, and partner interactions can be heightened. And, it is tough to leave that awful fight you had with your sibling behind as you walk into your office.

Do your best to let that friction go. People are extra sensitive this time of year so don’t take what they say personally. And, understand that you can handle whatever is on your mind later once everyone cools down.

Don’t overcommit.

Best laid plans are, well, that. Know that things will pop up or not work out, and it’s okay. Be flexible. Do only what must absolutely be done–and try to enjoy yourself.

*This article was originally posted on Inc.