Ahh. The holidays. The most joyful time of the year. At least that’s what we’re told.
In reality, this time of the year has become the most stressful time of the year. And for many people, maintaining a healthy work-life balance has become more of a fantasy than a reality.
But I don’t want to make you wait until we are on the edge of the holiday to get started on your stress-prevention and your work-life balance tool kit. So here are ten skills you can use right now.
1. Do only the most important things.
People say to me, “I’ve got my friends, my family, my company party, my church, decorating to do, gifts to buy, food to cook, and dozens of other activities during the holiday season. They all seem important. So how do I take your advice and do only the most important things?”
First, all the people in your life are NOT equally important. Focus on the folks who mean the most to you and get to the others later in the year.
Second, all the activities on your holiday schedule are NOT equally important. Select three activities that would bring the most meaning to this season for YOU. Make sure you do those three things and don’t add anything else to your schedule unless you truly have the time and desire.
2. Practice an attitude of gratitude.
At the same time it’s all too easy to get stressed out during the holidays, it’s also easy to get somewhat negative during the holidays. But you can eliminate the stress and negativity by practicing an attitude of gratitude. Simply put, the more thankful you are the less stressed you can be.
Let me recommend a simple exercise for each of you. Every day during the holiday season, take two minutes to list all the things you’re thankful for. And then take a walk outside, by yourself, and say out loud a thousand times, “Thank you.”
And what will happen? When the holiday stresses start coming in your direction, your list of thanks will come back into your head and neutralize your stresses.
3. Remind yourself “You’ll never get it all done, and that’s okay.”
I was raised in a family where my parents said, “First you work, then you play. Get all your work done and then you can play.” It’s not a bad thing to tell kids because they’ve not been to a time management seminar yet.
The trouble is if you take that advice literally, get all your work done and then play, you’d never have time to play. You need to remember that no matter how hard you work or how fast you work, on the day you die there’ll still be a few things left in your in-box.
The same truth applies to the holidays. You’ll never get all your holiday chores done. There’s always more you could do to create that picture-perfect holiday. Let it go. Remind yourself you’ll never get it all done and that’s okay.
So be it. Let it go. The founder of Christmas said, “I come to give you peace.” He didn’t say, “I come to give you a hectic schedule that’s so out of control you’ll be glad when the holidays are over.”
4. Avoid mind binders.
Never say such things as “I get so stressed out during the holidays … There’s so much to do … I always come back from vacations more exhausted than when I left.” The more you think or say such things, the more stress you’ll have.
5. Set your spending limits in advance.
I hear so many people talk about how expensive the holidays have become. They go on and on, fretting about the high cost of living. But it’s NOT the high cost of living that causes the holiday stress. It’s the cost of living high.
So set your spending limits in advance. Know what you are comfortable spending and stick to that decision.
But I’ll give you a warning. You will be tempted to spend more because somebody else is spending more. And you’ll be tempted to spend more to make up for the time you didn’t give someone this last year. Don’t do it.
6. Choose your fights carefully.
Holiday gatherings at work or home can sometimes bring difficult people together. Don’t get sucked into a conflict unnecessarily.
7. Do a check up from the neck up.
Examine your attitude. 85% of people have a less-than positive attitude. And the way you check out your attitude is look at your first reaction to any bit of news. If, for example, you find a note on your desk from your boss, What is your first reaction? Is your first reaction, “Great, the raise is coming early this year.” Or is your first reaction, “What did I do wrong this time?” 85% expect the negative.
If you fall into that category, give yourself the gift of a new attitude for the holidays and the new year. There are three things you need to do.
First, set the goal of getting a better attitude. Second, do some affirmations. As silly as it sounds, tell yourself, over and over again, “I’m a positive person with a positive attitude.” And third, ask a couple of people to hold you accountable, to praise you when you’re showing a more positive attitude and to encourage you when you’re getting down.
8. Pay attention to your body.
The holidays are supposed to be filled with fun, joy, and relaxation. But they may have become too stressful for you, and you may not even know it. So how do you know if you’ve got too much stress? Listen to your body. You’ll always have signals … such as more headaches, muscle tension, sleep problems, or eating incorrectly … that you must listen to. If you don’t listen, your dis-stress will lead to dis-ease.
9. Be an actor.
Instead of re-acting to other people’s holiday expectations or demanding behavior, choose to respond in a way that you feel good about. Don’t come down to their level. Let your enthusiasm bring them up to your level.
10. Remember you can change.
Don’t buy into the big lie that says, “I can’t help the way I feel … or … That’s just the way I am.” You may not know how to change your attitude, but it is totally changeable if you spend five minutes a day practicing the disciplines outlined in my book, “PIVOT: How One Turn In Attitude Can Lead To Success.” If you don’t have a copy, go to
There you have it … my top ten list for a stress-free holiday.
If you were to limit yourself to three of the ten holiday stress busters, which three would you focus on? Once you’ve decided which three it will be, then do them … starting NOW.
About the Author
Dr. Alan Zimmerman‘s formal education includes a Bachelor’s degree in Speech and Political Science, a Master’s degree is in Speech-Communication and Sociology, and a Doctorate in the field of Interpersonal Communication and Psychology.
After 15 years of work as a university professor, he founded the Zimmerman Communi-Care Network, Inc. in 1985, a speaking, training, and consulting company with offices in two states and employees in two countries. As the president of that company, Dr. Zimmerman has delivered hundreds of presentations across the world and maintains a 92% repeat and referral business. For more about Dr. Zimmerman, please visit his website at http://www.DrZimmerman.com