We’re right in the middle of the holiday season, when the stress starts to accumulate until it reaches a breaking point. Start taking steps today to make some positive changes that will help you manage our stress over the next two or three weeks.
- Get it done. Yes, I know you have a million things to do and you are trying very hard to get them done, but now is the time to power through that task list. Having a big pile of unfinished tasks looming over me is a big contributor to my increased stress around the holidays. In addition to all of the regular work, holiday tasks like shopping and cooking can make an already overwhelming workload seem even more daunting. I could either procrastinate, which only increases my stress, or suck it up and devote some extra time to completing my task list. I suggesting spending some extra time this weekend to make a big dent in that task list with a focus on those things that you dread doing, but that must be done before the holidays. Getting the most unpleasant tasks out of the way now helps reduce stress in the long run by making the remaining tasks seem easy by comparison.
- Put it off. Now is a good time to focus on the work that really matters and the urgent tasks that must be completed during the holidays. Everything else can wait until after the first of the year. Take a really hard look at that task list and find the “nice to have” tasks that aren’t urgent and likely won’t be completed before 2011 anyway. Make a conscious effort to just move those items out of your active task list and defer them until after the holidays. Having better focus and putting off a few of the less urgent tasks can make the existing task list more manageable and less stressful for the holidays.
- Stay fit. During times of increased stress and less free time, it can be too easy to neglect our health and let our regular fitness activities slide, but this is when you really need those workouts. Hitting the gym or the running trail is a great way to reduce stress and improve your mood, especially during a time when most of us tend to overindulge a bit on all of those delicious holiday treats. If you are really pressed for time, try to combine activities with a little extra walking during that shopping trip, or turn a family gathering into a healthy after dinner stroll around the neighborhood. You can reduce your stress and burn off some of those extra cookies at the same time.
- Have fun. When we are at our busiest, it can be hard to take time out to have some fun and relax. Find a few non-holiday hobbies and make sure that you leave at least a few minutes a day to do something you enjoy that helps reduce your stress. Have lunch or coffee with a good friend or take an evening off to go to the movies. Even just spending 30 minutes with a great book to relax before bed can help you unwind and reduce your stress, which will help you sleep better and make you even more productive and less stressed the following day.
- Escape.If all else fails, have an escape plan. Maybe this is taking the easy way out, but I love to go on relaxing vacations over the holidays. I escaped the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday with a trip to Hawaii where I spent 6 days sitting in a beach chair, having fruity drinks and reading science fiction. I came back relaxed and ready to take on the rest of the holiday season. Don’t feel obligated to always have a traditional or expected holiday. If you want to do something different, interesting and less stressful, go for it!
What are your favorite tips for reducing holiday stress?