Far be it from me to be the Grinch that stole Christmas but let's be honest: Although December is a joyous time of the year filled with holiday celebrations and good tidings to all, for many women it adds more stress into a cup that already runneth over. Schedules already filled with a never-ending "to-do" list have more items added to them such as end of the year work deadlines, office parties, family gatherings, gift purchasing activities, menu planning, holiday cards which have to be bought and sent along with potential travel plans, often leave us feeling exhausted and overwhelmed. Therefore, as we commence the holiday season I want to share four simple tips I tell my clients (and myself) to ease the burden of the holiday season -- leaving us some time to actually celebrate this time of year, instead of collapsing from stress and exhaustion.
1. Monitor your own health. As Shakespeare once wrote: "This above all, to thine own self be true." As we shop and wrap gift presents while taking care of year-end business activities, do not neglect your health. Be aware of how you are feeling and act accordingly. If you are really starting to unravel due to stress brought on from exhaustion, looming deadlines, too much food and/or alcohol or sleep deprivation, stop running around like a chicken without a head. Slow down and listen to what your body is telling you. Add some moderation into your day, get the sleep you need. Try to minimize the cookies and cakes we all seem to overindulge in during this time of year and curb your alcohol intake. If you exercise, make sure you maintain your routine as much as possible -- it will not only curb your appetite but perhaps just as importantly, it is a great stress reliever. If you are not a big fan of exercise, then try to add some extra walking into your day by parking your car away from the mall entrance (it really won't kill you to walk a few extra feet into the store)!
2. DELEGATE. The only way you can take care of yourself with all the extra responsibilities falling upon women this time of year is to DELEGATE by engaging the help of others at work and at home to share some of these year-end tasks. Now is not the time to be a control freak or a martyr. Don't allow everything to fall onto your shoulders; take some of the "to-dos" off your list and put them into the hands of the capable people in your life. Let it go. If you don't, you will continue to feel overburdened throughout the holiday season and end up starting the new year angry and burnt out.
3. Ditch the perfectionism and cut yourself some slack. Although we may be quite rational throughout the year, when the holidays are upon us we think things have to be perfect. This pursuit of perfection adds unnecessary stress on us during an already stressful time of year. Life does not turn into a Norman Rockwell painting just because it is December. So give yourself a break, continue to do the very best you can -- within reason -- the word "reason" being the operative term here, while continuing to pursue your career goals while maintaining a sense of reality.
4. Last and most certainly not least keep -- or get -- a sense of humor. Neuroscience can quantify how laughter can literally decrease hormonal stress levels, which lowers our overall sense of stress. When deadlines are looming and extra personal responsibilities are heaped upon an already overburdened plate, maintain your sense of humor and ability to laugh -- especially at yourself. Do not turn into a Grinch and take everything way too seriously. It doesn't get things done any faster or any better. So you might as well smile and laugh and whatever doesn't get done, couldn't have been all that important after all!
Following these four simple tips should help ease the burden of the holiday season for you by decreasing your stress level. 'Tis the season to be jolly -- so don't let women be left out of all the fun!