The APQC Blog

Five Tips for Coping with Holiday Work Stress

The end-of-year holiday season is a time for friends, family, parties, and gifts, but it is also a time for project close-outs, strategic planning, and budgeting for the next fiscal year. Juggling all of these home and work demands at the same time can be stressful. To help take the pressure off this holiday season, here are five tips to help you relax. These tips are culled from secondary research I've conducted in the past as a social and health research psychologist.

1. Prioritize. The end of the year brings about a large number of activities—closing out projects, holiday work parties, cleaning, shopping, entertaining guests, the list can be endless. To help relieve stress, make a list of all the activities you have. Rank them in their order of importance and cut out anything that is non-essential. It’s better to give 100 percent for a few activities than run on an empty tank for many activities.

2. Learn to say “no.” Many times, feeling stressed out is not about the number of demands (also called stressors) placed on your time. It is about your perception of your ability to handle all of these demands and whether you cope with these stressors effectively. You may easily be able to tell yourself that you will only be going to two holiday work functions this year, but you’ll need to tell your managers and coworkers too. Colleagues will understand if you can’t be a part of every activity and letting them know ahead of time will help them manage their expectations and help them plan for your absence. If there’s something that you cannot refuse, try to remove something else from your plate to accommodate it.

3. Recognize your feelings. It is important to recognize that the holidays are a time for happiness and cheer, but they can also be a stressful and overwhelming time. There is a lot that needs to be done and the pressure can be difficult to cope with. Also, the holidays can remind us of loved ones that we’ve lost and we may feel sadness or grief. Acknowledge that these feelings are completely normal and that you may need to take some time to manage these feelings. Reach out and talk to loved ones or if you don’t feel comfortable doing that, try talking to a professional.

4. Get some exercise. I’m sure exercise is the last thing on your mind during the holidays, but research shows getting your blood pumping can be beneficial to your mental and physical health; working up a sweat can help you reduce your work stress. The next time you’re having a rough day at the office, try taking a 30-minute walk during lunch to help you take your mind off of stressful projects and relax.

5. Take a deep breath. When things get a bit too stressful at work, take a moment to practice some breathing exercises. Focus your attention on your breathing, and if your mind wanders to certain thoughts, notice where your attention goes but don’t resist the thoughts. Gently bring your attention back to your breath. Practice these breathing exercises periodically throughout the day for a few minutes each time. Similar exercises that are grounded in mindfulness-based stress reduction have been shown to effectively reduce the symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression.

What else do you do to beat holiday stress?

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