Date: October 6, 2017
Holiday stress is ALREADY upon us! How?! The leaves are still green. Halloween décor is still full price. And I am wearing shorts as I wandered into Home Depot to this scene. Oy! Right?!
I know retail is hurting. Of course, they are trying to generate excitement and false urgency. But this “rush the season” backdrop to our already-overfull lives, insidiously “rushes the stress” for too many people. In a 2015 Healthline survey, 62% of respondents felt holiday stress!
And it then occurred to me that right now is the perfect time to do something about holiday stress. GET PROACTIVE this year. No, I don’t mean start a shopping marathon tonight. But instead of feeling a sense of dread that the overwhelm ship has sailed, take time to make some course adjustments this year.
TAKE CHARGE OF YOUR ENERGY
A little strategic thinking in October can give you the resilience to end December with more energy, joy, and health. The bonus: this will also boost your productivity.
Schedule an actual meeting with yourself, then your team and family. Get really clear about the challenges and the types of holiday stress that lie ahead. Next, brainstorm specific ways you can save energy and renew energy.
Successful stress management is about energy management. Yes, that goes for holiday stress as well! No matter how you slice it, the holidays demand more of your energy. So creating small, realistic ways to recharge your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual energy will keep the holidays from draining you dry. Your brain, your body, your friends, family and co-workers will all benefit!
Taking this step now can give you (and your team and family) the deep satisfaction of knowing that while you can’t control everything (darn it! ;)), you can make a significant difference in your experience.
What could you gain if you tweaked your energy plan for the next 2 months?
Think about the last few holiday seasons and answer these questions:
- What parts of the holiday bring you the most joy or satisfaction? And why?
- What parts zap your energy the most? And why?
- Where have you spent energy needlessly (physical, mental, emotional and/or spiritual)? Think worry, old triggers, over-doing, over-trying, etc.
- What stands out as best energy values? Think both of things that brought the most joy or satisfaction—finishing a particular project, or making a certain connection—and things that worked best to recharge you in the process.
Check in with how you and your folks are feeling now. Then, do a grand capture of all the possible demands ahead.
- Make a dashboard for physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual energy. (For spiritual, think connection to bigger picture, community, purpose.) What needs recharging?
- Identify key indicators to monitor daily over the next 3 months as you focus on combating holiday stress (or forever? ;)) Ex’s: shoulder/jaw tension, impatience, withdrawal, sleep, etc. Or for a team/family- how can you take a daily read on energy levels?
- Do a thorough capture (on paper or white board) of everything ahead on your to-do list in every category- work, home, family, community, self-care, etc, etc. I know… this part can be scary! But it is actually quite empowering to put it all down.
No idea is dumb! It takes about 20 ideas before your brain lets go into creativity and the ability to look at your situation from a fresh perspective. So – just start writing down ideas, then edit. Have fun!
- Wean the current to-do/project list. Using your values and your reflections from the review, give yourself permission to let go of any to-do’s that get in the way of finding meaning and effectiveness. Of course…there are things you can’t say no to! I am not suggesting you tell your boss that the annual report robs your joy! 😉 And I know you like to think you can manage everything. But there are plenty of things that you don’t really need to do. And there are even more that can be delegated or put on the someday/maybe list. Be brutally honest with yourself. The more you focus on what matters, the more impact you can have.
- Ideas, ideas, ideas. Start a list of any ideas that will save you energy. These can include ways to be more efficient, ways to combine tasks/purposed (take a walk to connect with your spouse or kids and ask them these questions), ways to spend less energy on the same old things (like deciding not to spend energy on dread or being annoyed by the same relative again? ;)), or ways to avoid losing energy to financial worries.
- Brainstorm ideas that will refuel your energy. Make a list of at least 20 small tweaks you can make in your days that will recharge your physically, mentally, emotionally, or spiritually.
- These can be as simple as taking some nuts and fruits to work, getting out for lunch once/week, insuring date night happens, making a point to call someone who grounds you, taking 3 deep breaths before every meeting, 3 gratitudes at dinner… the possibilities are limitless! Play. Ask others what they do. Create a team/family idea board. Have fun.
PICK AND COMMIT!
I know; this is the hard part. WHAT IF YOU PICK THE WRONG IDEAS??? ;))… WHAT IF YOU DON’T FOLLOW THROUGH??? Ok… get out of your head and follow the instructions. Look over all the lists.
- What feels like it might be fun to experiment with? Notice what you feel as you read them, more than what you think.
- Stay away from anything that feels like a “should.” What feels easy? Are there things that feel like they might give you the most return? What might be the most helpful in keeping you grounded and energized? Are there things you know will give you a feeling of control or satisfaction? What would keep you positive and grateful?
- Write down just a few you want to play with. Over-achievers, this means you! Say them out loud as you write them down. Again, notice how you feel as you say them and as you them on paper. Something causing you stress? Ditch it! Revise as needed!
- Devise your strategy. What do you need in place to succeed? Resources? Social support? A coach? Weekly check in? (See my habit checklist)
- Create your accountability strategy. An actual checklist? (We are all kids at heart- we want stars on the chart ! ;)). An app like Good Habits? An accountability partner? For work and family, make it a clean metric seen by all.
- Bonus: Weekly, track your energy levels in all 4 domains. Notice what habits give you the most energy.
- Plan your celebration! No, this is not frivolous. It helps wire your brain for more success. What worked? How does that sense of power help? What else can you do in the future?
IMPLEMENT AND ENJOY!
Now, have fun with this part. Approach your experiment with lightness. Behavior changes require you to rewire your brain—practice, compassion, gratitude, and self-care all help!
And then, you guessed it… It will be 2018 and you can keep this proactive holiday-stress strategy going. Take a little time to reflect on what worked for you. Most of all, be kind. Think what you would tweak for next year. Download my yearly meetings template, join a class or hire a coach for support.
Ultimately, feeling empowered with skills, resources, and plans in the face of your challenge is the secret to avoiding the ravages of poorly managed holiday stress. Of course, you have no power over some circumstances, but taking proactive control of your experience is the ultimate stress antidote!