7 Ways to Have Less Stress This Holiday Season
by Margot Carmichael Lester, Staples® Contributing Writer
I dont know about you, but all those ads showing people relaxing around the hearth or out enjoying winter sports seem pretty unrealistic to me. Do you know any small business owner whos not burning the Yule log at both ends during the holidays? Me neither.
No matter the season, the best gift we can give ourselves and our business is balance with holiday stress management. A rested, engaged and healthy small business owner is good for employees, customers, vendors and the bottom line not to mention family and friends. You can get tons of advice from any of the great business books on the market, but heres our gift to you: seven easy-to-execute tips for balancing work and life during the holidays (and any other time, really).
1. Breathe Deep: Yes, its a cliché, but its more powerful than you think. When you start feeling rushed, when the thoughts in our mind are racing, and you're feeling overwhelmed, this is your cue to physically stop and take three deep breaths, says Barb Schmidt, author of The Practice: Simple Tools for Managing Stress, Finding Inner Peace, and Uncovering Happiness. This small action of conscious breathing sends the breath throughout your entire body; connecting your mind, body and heart; bringing you back to the present moment. In the present moment we have choices and feel in control.
2. Unplug Your Devices: Its difficult to even think about limiting our accessibility during the holiday season, when our 100-percent availability seems mission critical. But heres a hint: its not. In fact, Jason Carney, human resources director for Indianapolis-based WorkSmart Systems, says unplugging is especially important during the holiday season. He says that making loved ones feel appreciated and devoting time to them without cell phones is a statement of kindness and love. If you simply cannot go completely off the grid, set up aVIP list in your phone and put only truly crucial people on it. Then youll be alerted only when something vital comes up and can ignore everything else for a while.
3. Shop Smart: Whether you need to buy groceries, office supplies or gifts, reduce the holiday stress associated with shopping by doing a little strategic planning. Lists are, of course, a good start. But where you shop can help, too. Choose retailers that offer options, like delivery or shipping, the option to buy online/pick-up in store, gift-wrapping and easy returns. Buy as much as you can from one retailer so you can make fewer stops (even if thats online) and potentially qualify for additional savings. Identifying retailers you already visit that offer additional services, like shipping via UPS and USPS and customizable photo gifts, will give you a true one-stop shopping experience, in turn managing holiday stress.
4. Delegate Tasks: Give your direct reports all they can handle, suggests business and leadership consultant Greg Bustin, CEO of Bustin & Co. in Dallas, and author of Accountability: The Key to Driving a High-Performance Culture. Don't think of it as giving up control. Think of it as giving yourself a Christmas present and a present to your key employees who are eager to show you they can handle more responsibility. One caution, however: This is not a license to overload your staff so you can go shopping or to a party.
5. Eat Right: Lynn Heisel is a holistic health coach who finds the holidays challenging but not hopeless. A couple of times a month, this owner of Demo-licious! Brand Ambassadors a supplement- and artisanal-food demonstration company in North Carolina makes a big pot of bean soup with plenty of vegetables and freezes some for those inevitable days when there's just no time to cook. She suggests downing a big bowl before heading out to parties so theres something hearty in your stomach to reduce the temptation to fill up on less healthful party food. In a pinch, an apple can do that, too.
6. Be Active: No, running around in a panic doesnt count (though it does burn calories). If you have a regular workout routine, stay with it. If you dont have one, or you have to miss your regular session, schedule a 20-minute walk each day preferably out of the office. This gets your heart rate up and your blood flowing again and it can help you think more clearly or solve a problem thats been dogging you. It also makes it harder for you to get sick. Schedule fitness activities with people you are close to and youll kill two birds with one stone.
7. Show Gratitude: It may sound silly, but being grateful is a great way to set priorities and enforce balance. When we know what were grateful for, we begin putting those things above others. Count your blessings every morning during the holiday season, advises Red Katz, a New Yorkbased entrepreneur and the author of Live Your YOUlogy. I suggest using photos of your family, friends, vacations, etc., as your blessings. Focus on all the good things in your life. This will help ground you. Dont forget to show gratitude on the business side, too, by thanking customers and your staff [SI3] for their roles in making your enterprise a success.
Finally, cut yourself some slack. The worst thing you can do is beat yourself up for losing your equilibrium. It happens! Theres no reason to feel bad if one cant keep the balance, Katz says. This challenge can be used as a lesson to change your life for the future and a goal to balance it for next year.