At work, you’re prepping for the 2020 benefits year, reviewing company policies, running year-end reports, and recovering from office holiday parties. At home, you’re prepping for family get-togethers, reviewing shopping receipts, running last-minute errands, and recovering from late nights spent watching endless holiday movies.
It’s stressful. And it’s possible you’re not taking the time you need to relax and decompress so you can actually enjoy the season.
What about your workforce? You know they’re feeling the stress and overwhelm of the holidays, too. It’s only natural. A 2018 VitalSmarts survey reveals a breakdown of what’s overwhelming people during the holidays:
- Just keeping up (56%)
- Finances (50%)
- Shopping (46%)
- Family events (33%)
- Physical health (26%)
No surprises here. But keep in mind, each employee is stressed by different things — or a combination of different things — that can change by the hour. That’s why it’s so helpful to have a range of stress management techniques in your back pocket (or on your mobile device!). Here are some insights from Grokker wellbeing experts to inspire you to manage stress by taking some time (even if all you have is a few minutes!) for yourself.
1. Give Yourself A Break
“We spend so much time worrying about something happening in the future that will cause us to not be happy that we completely prevent ourselves from feeling any happiness along the way. It doesn’t make much sense when you really start to think about it!”
— Cory Muscara (in Letting Go of Worry, part of 10 Days to Happiness)
Stress happens. It’s a busy time of year and most people experience low energy, grumpiness, and other such bah-humbug moments. See for yourself: Take a minute to think about all you need to do with family and work — including everything that’s supposed to be fun but ends up creating more stress. Are you starting to worry now?
Your worrying mind means well. But it’s probably in overdrive. Instead of resisting it or getting angry at yourself for ruminating, take a deep breath and show yourself compassion. Appreciate your brain’s attempts to help you “control everything.” And give it a break! Settle into the present moment and enjoy some calm. Now, remind yourself that things tend to work themselves out, if you let them.
2. Prepare a Stress Survival Plan
Think about the situations, people and environments cause you to feel stress. Mall traffic jams. Crowded family parties filled with screaming kids and opinionated in-laws. A punch stain on your new ugly holiday sweater.
Whatever (or whomever) tends to trigger your rage, “come to the party” with a stress management plan that’s personal to you and your needs. This plan might include better time management, exercise, sleep, and better nutrition. What lifestyle behaviors help you feel your best, body and mind? What daily activities will help you maintain a calmer state of mind?
Yes, this takes some prep work — but it’s worth your time. Figure out what you need to do ahead of time to stay as calm and focused as possible. Maybe this starts by turning down an invitation or two. Or maybe you say “yes!” to something because you know it’ll bring you joy. Either way, you can anticipate the holiday pitfalls that tend to cause you the most distress and feel better knowing you have the tools to keep your cool.
3. Get Moving (A Little Bit Goes a Long Way!)
“So wellness, what does that mean? To me and to Grokker, what it really means is breathing big, having great alignment, and having energy so your life can be awesome.”
— Ellen Barret (in 10-Minute Wellness Walk, part of Walk Strong: Low Impact Cardio)
It’s conventional wisdom that exercising (even a quick stretch break) is a surefire way to reduce the symptoms of stress. Mayo Clinic explains that in addition to increasing your overall health and sense of wellbeing, exercise delivers some stress-busting benefits you can enjoy right away: pumped-up endorphins, boosted energy, and an improved mood.
You don’t have to run a 5K or twist yourself into advanced yoga poses — unless you want to! You can take a 10-minute walk or do some stretches at your desk. Move in a way that feels good to your body — make it as gentle or intense as you prefer. The trick is getting outside of your mind for a while to focus on your body. You just might feel everyday stress start to melt away...
4. Take A Mindfulness Break
“Mindfulness can often be the key to a happy and healthy life. The very essence of mindfulness is to experience what is happening in the moment. The key is to be completely aware of all of your actions and all of the feelings and emotions that occur as a result of these actions.”
— Julie Montagu (in Mindful Tea Drink For Happiness, part of 21-Day Happy Yoga Challenge)
Call it meditation, mindfulness, or zone-out time...but “finding your zen” through a daily practice of focused concentration on your breath and becoming aware of the present moment is like a gift that keeps on giving. In fact, Harvard Health Publishing reports on a Johns Hopkins University finding that mindful meditation can help ease psychological stresses like anxiety, depression, and pain.
Try it! You can simply sit still, lower or close your eyelids, breathe deeply, and feel your body relax. Or you can take a walk, focusing on the feel of your feet on the ground and the colors and sounds that surround you. You can also prepare a warm cup of tea and dedicate a few minutes to feeling the heat of the mug, smelling the fragrance of the brew, and tasting the flavor on your tongue.
5. Prepare Your Mind and Body to Sleep Soundly
“As soon as we bring attention away from information and the thinking mind and focus, instead, on tangible, physical sensations, then we make the shift from thinking to feeling awareness. The mind can then more easily switch off and the body is allowed to rest.”
— Natasha Kerry (in Calm Mind for Sleep, part of 7 Steps to Better Sleep)
A Johns Hopkins Medicine blog post examining the stress-sleep connection references a survey finding that 44 percent of adults said stress had caused sleepless nights at least once in the previous month. (We wonder if the number goes up during the holidays?) In any case, they go on to say stress relief techniques like gentle breathing and progressive muscle relaxation can go far to help people reduce the release of stress hormones and slow the heart rate, helping the mind and body calm down.
So instead of resigning to another night of tossing and turning, try something new — and see what works for you. Some people like to do gentle stretches or a bedtime yoga routine to help them wind down. Others enjoy listening to guided meditations or sleep stories to help them drift off. Whatever works for you, you’re sure to wake up to a less stressful holiday season!