It’s the most wonderful time of the year; for some, it may also carry extra stress for many working professionals. On top of an already jam-packed workload, you now must coordinate the office Christmas party, find time to wrap gifts, and prepare your home for those out-of-town guests flying in over the coming weeks. You were already busy, but now you’re insanely busy.

While all that sounds stressful, it turns out that 56% of people surveyed by the American Psychiatric Association still cited workplace stress as their #1 stressor during the holiday season (December 2006). It’s easy to overload on the work-life balance during this time of year, but don’t worry!  So many are in the same boat with you!  Here are some practical tips to help you keep your cool through the winter holidays.

  1. Avoid overcommitment. If you know your in-laws arrive in town on Thursday, don’t sign up to help decorate for the work holiday party the same day. If you know you have a huge work project due by the end of the week, pass on the optional holiday luncheon. It is SO easy to get pulled in many different directions, especially during a season when so many feel obligated to give or help out. Remember that your priorities come first (family, close friends, neighbors, etc).  Consider making a prioritized list for the month of December and let anything unimportant wait until the holiday season has concluded.
  2. Be honest about your mental health. If you’re feeling anxious or depressed, talk to someone about it! Chances are someone is feeling the same way you do! However, don’t get caught up in what you’re feeling: schedule 5-6 minutes a day to worry, then clear your head and get right back in the game. This way your negative thoughts don’t consume your whole day.  During this special time of the year, please consider a time of prayer, reflection, and working on your “attitude of gratitude.”
  3. Maintain your budget. In APA’s previously mentioned study by the APA, 62% of Americans cited “lack of money” as a leading cause of stress during the holiday season. Holidays are a time for spending:  Christmas presents for friends and family, attending work parties, and trying to grab food in-between the stops on your to-do list, it gets hard to manage your finances. Sticking to a budget will help you manage stress in the long run and will make you much happier when that credit card bill comes in January. If you feel pushed to overspend, consider making more purchases in cash (Dave Ramsey and his envelope method can help). And don’t feel bad about opting out of the office “Secret Santa” game: only you know your financial situation!
  4. Keep up with your physical health. Christmas isn’t exactly the poster child for a healthy eating holiday! It may be difficult to keep up a normal exercise routine or eating plan during this time of year. Try to balance it out – if you know you’ll be making cookies with the kids tonight, pack a healthy lunch at work. And make sure you get that flu shot: no one needs to be sick this season.
  5. Take time to recharge. If you’re tired, sleep. If you’re hungry, eat. If you need a short break, take one! Step away from your desk and walk a few laps around the office to clear your head. Go outside and breathe in some fresh air. Even just taking a few deep breaths in your cubicle before typing up that next e-mail can make a world of difference.
  6. Practice kindness. While it’s easy to get caught up in the stress of the holiday season, you should always remember to give people the benefit of the doubt. You never know what someone else could be going through; this is the time of year to set differences aside and simply be kind to others. Help out a coworker or friend when you can: it’s the season of giving.  Even now with COVID, sometimes folks are in a tough place….be kind!
  7. Embrace the ending. When the holiday season is through and you must return to everyday activities, it’s normal to experience a period of depression. After all, it’s a bit of a letdown to realize that there’s almost three months of winter ahead (with no fun holidays)! Schedule fun activities with family and friends for mid-January and push through that winter chill.
  8. Find ways to serve you community. There is no joy greater than a child on Christmas. No kid? No problem. You can sponsor an Angel from Salvation Army’s Angel Tree. The gift of giving can be expensive for a family in need. Take some weight off their shoulders and enjoy being Santa. Presents are nice, but the feeling you’ll get thinking about your Angel on Christmas morning might be the greatest gift of all.
  9. Be a great neighbor; find a new one. If you’re new to the neighborhood, go introduce yourself. If you’ve lived in your house for a few years, go introduce yourself to the friendly new faces you’ve seen down the street. Whoever you are, wherever you are, you can spread holiday cheer. Take someone’s trash to the curb, bring their paper to the front porch, leave a Christmas card with some cookies (pre-packaged are recommended) – the possibilities are endless.
  10. Send out holiday cards to 5 new people! It’s been a tough year for socializing and Christmas cards are the perfect way to pop in and say hello without actually being there. Our friends at VistaPrint are having a sale until December 6 – just in time for Christmas! They have tons of designs to choose from so you don’t waste any time that should be spent enjoying time with your loved ones.

While the holidays can often seem more overbearing than they are fun, there are a few things that will certainly help you learn to manage your stress so that you, too, can have a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Joyous Kwanzaa, and a Blessed New Year.