As we move into another holiday season, I’m already noticing an increase in my stress levels. During the holidays, we all face additional expectations on our time. We still have our regular work to do, but we also have holiday shopping, additional expenses, extra cooking, family gatherings, holiday parties and other activities that seem to take up more time than we have available in a regular 24-hour day.
Most of us also try to take a few days off around the holidays, which can create additional time and budget constraints. For freelancers, no one actually pays you for those days off, and you still need to meet client expectations. Telecommuters and other workers still have about the same amount of work to complete with fewer days to accomplish it. Regardless of your work situation, this still means more stress during the holidays. I have a few suggestions to help you manage your stress and come out of the holidays at least as healthy and happy as you were before the holiday season.
When I get stressed, my natural instinct is to procrastinate, but that will only make the situation worse. I force myself to do what I can to get ahead on any tasks that can be accomplished early to avoid a mad rush during the holidays.
For one client, I knew that holiday schedules would derail the normal approval process for my weekly writing tasks, so instead of doing a week’s worth of writing, I did a week and a half. This gets me through the first half of the week after the Thanksgiving holiday, and I can pick back up on the writing after everyone gets back from vacation.
I also finished about 90 percent of my Christmas shopping before Thanksgiving. My family lives in Ohio, so I took advantage of online shopping to buy almost everything and have it shipped directly to my Mom’s house. This saves me the hassles of last-minute shopping and store crowds, and it also makes travel less stressful, since it reduces the amount of luggage required for the trip home.
When we have the least amount of time available, it is too easy to cut out exercise and use the time to do more work, run errands, or complete other tasks. Do not be tempted to skip your workouts during the holiday season. Exercise naturally reduces stress and will help you avoid the increased stress associated with the weight gain that comes out of eating too many holiday cookies.
If you can’t find the time for your regular workouts, make sure you do something physical every day. Here are a couple of suggestions:
- Knead the bread by hand instead of using the bread maker.
- Dance in the kitchen to your favorite holiday tunes while you cook.
- Park in the last row of the shopping mall and walk, or for urban dwellers like me, do your shopping in a neighborhood where you can walk to every store.
- Take a walk with a family member and use the time to talk (also a good way to relieve stress).
Take Time Off
Take advantage of the times when your clients are on vacation to take a few days off yourself. Seriously. Take some actual time off with no client work. This works best in conjunction with the suggestion about getting ahead. I’ve been working like a mad woman for the past few days, and I plan to take Wednesday through Sunday off. OK, I’m lying a little bit. I plan to take Wednesday, Thursday and Friday completely off, but I’m secretly hoping to have time to work on some neglected non-client personal projects for at least a few hours over the weekend. These are those fun projects that I never quite have time to do, so it won’t feel like work.
Make sure that you get plenty of sleep. While sleeping a few less hours every night might seem like a great way to get a few extra hours to finish the activities that are leaving you stressed, it will only make the problem worse. When I’m not getting enough sleep, I’m grouchy and less productive, which only increases my stress levels. Get the sleep that you need to increase the chances that you’ll be productive and accomplish more work in less time.
These are my top four tips for reducing stress during the holidays. How do you reduce holiday stress?
Image by Rick Turoczy used under Creative Commons.