My colleague Kenny Tavares is our featured guest blogger to start off December, and his article is an important reminder that all-work-and-no-taking-care-of-yourself is a great way to mess up any time of year, but especially this one. End of year donations and asks, data entry and reconciliation, relatives visiting, shopping and gift wrapping, last-minute requests, managing expectations…it’s a lot all in a very short space of time. Here’s Kenny’s advice on how to make the season manageable and more merry – and a reminder to keep a caring eye on folks who may be vulnerable at this time of year. ~Helen
For many people, this time of the year is joyous. It’s a great time to celebrate with friends and family and to be thankful for what we have. However, for some, this is not the most wonderful time of the year. Schedules compress, to-do lists grow and demands of the season are overwhelming. The mere mention of the holiday usually finds me rushing to a calendar and beginning the countdown.
We all have experience dealing with stress, but stress at the end of the year can be especially difficult and ultimately unhealthy. Chronic stress can lead to a number of physical disorders, including anxiety, depression, heart attacks and strokes, so when things feel out of control, it’s important to be mindful and take care of ourselves. Before things accelerate too quickly, let’s take a moment to review strategies for dealing with stress at work and at home. Hopefully, the following tips will keep you feeling positive and full of happiness this season.
Sometimes our frustrations and irritations seem nebulous and hard to manage. Sometimes we fail to understand that certain triggers are causing our stress. Being self aware of those moments can help us avoid them in the future. Writing these situations down can make you more mindful of re-occurrences. In these moments, you can deploy methods for dealing with them, like meditation, deep breathing, exercise, or relaxing activities like reading or listening to music. Use strategies like the Pomodoro Method at work, which will allow you to focus over shorter periods of time, while taking regular short breaks.
Also, it’s important to take care of yourself. Avoid overcompensating for your stress by overindulging on food or alcohol. Include healthy foods in your routine. If you are not getting enough sleep, consider reducing stimulating activities, like reading social media or watching television, late in the day. Going offline is a treat we should all relish when we can. Furthermore, be mindful of separating your work and free time, so you have ample time to decompress. Take some time off, if you can, and allow yourself to heal.
It’s easy to get overwhelmed, especially at this time of the year. Whether it’s the large amount of assignments we’re attempting to complete at work or a lengthy list of holiday shopping we’re hoping to finish afterward, these things can lead us to freeze, creating even more stress. I know this seems counterproductive, but the first thing you should do is stop. It’s time to organize. Define what you need to do and when it needs to be done and schedule it. Set realistic expectations and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Developing a plan will give you a sense of control that will alleviate stress. Give yourself the time to get your mind around the things you have to do.
In and out of work, there are times when we just have to admit that we need help. Sometimes, we have too much on our plate. Other times, we’re unable to think rationally about our tasks. The worst thing we can do when we’re feeling this way is to become more withdrawn. This will only feed your stress. Talking to friends, co-workers or a supervisor can help us process the tasks at hand and assist with our time management. Engaging in chores like shopping with our friends is much more enjoyable, relieving anxiety at a crucial time. Opening up to others is a natural stress-buster.
Of course, some problems go beyond our ability to handle stress. If you feel incapable of managing your anxiety, you may need the assistance of a professional. Many organizations offer an employee assistance program (EAP), which provide information, resources and referrals to medical health professionals. Your physician can also help you get the help you need. While you may fear seeking professional help, the benefits far outweigh any concerns you have. Whatever approach you take, don’t let yourself sink too low.
It’s impossible to squeeze every suggestion into this small space, but I hope you have found these ideas useful. It’s important that we don’t let the season get the best of us. Also, let’s remember to look out for others who are struggling and be there to help. Please feel free to share your own strategies below. I hope the rest of your year is less stressful and a lot more enjoyable. Take care.
Further reading and help…
American Psychological Association: “Coping With Stress at Work” – https://www.apa.org/helpcenter/work-stress.aspx
American Psychological Association: “Five Tips to Help Manage Stress” – https://www.apa.org/helpcenter/manage-stress.aspx
Mayo Clinic: “Stress, depression and the holidays: Tips for coping” – https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress/art-20047544
Canadian Centre for Occupational health & Safety: “Workplace Stress” – https://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/psychosocial/stress.html
WebMD: “10 Relaxation Techniques that Zap Stress Fast” – https://www.webmd.com/balance/guide/blissing-out-10-relaxation-techniques-reduce-stress-spot#1
WebMD: “Stress Management Tips” – https://www.webmd.com/balance/stress-management/stress-management
WebMD: “Depression Support” – https://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/depresssion-support#1
Anxiety and Depression Association of America: “Understanding the Facts; Physical Activity Reduces Stress” – https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/related-illnesses/other-related-conditions/stress/physical-activity-reduces-st
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org