By Marcelle Yeager, US News and World Report
Now that we’ve made it past Halloween, the busy, often dreaded holiday season is ahead. While it’s supposed to be a celebration of joy, peace and what we are thankful for, it is typically the opposite. There are many reasons: You likely have year-end work tasks looming and mandatory office holiday parties. Prepping for the holidays takes a huge amount of energy, and spending inordinate amounts of time with extended family often makes people feel anxious.
How can you make the holiday season at home and work a time of rejuvenation instead of exhaustion? There are small changes you can make to be more aware of your state of mind and turn those negative holiday pressures into more positive endeavors.
Decide that there is more to life than being busy. How much do you dislike when you ask someone, “How have you been?” and their response is always: “Busy!” Don’t compete in the game of who has the busiest life. Wouldn’t it be great to hear and say, “Great! Enjoying [fill in the blank].” Typically you hear that response from people in retirement. We need to attempt to feel this way preretirement. Almost everyone is busy, so it’s not news. Focus on things that you love doing rather than the fact that you are busy. If you’re hyper-aware of just being busy all the time, you probably are not taking time for things that bring you happiness.
Spend time on things that bring you joy. There is always work for the next day, just as there are always things on your to-do list at home. Learn to prioritize to-do lists and figure out what must be done that day, and what can wait. You will probably find that there are a lot of tasks on those lists that are not essential. Cross them out, or move them to another list.
The next step is to figure out what brings you joy, because this will make both your day at the office and at home calmer. It could be that you like to take the dog for a walk or to go to the dog park in the morning before work. Build in time for that. Playtime with your kids after work? Carve out the time. Animals and children aren’t consumed with busy schedules and can teach us to live in the present.
Make a difference in others’ days. Bringing a smile to someone’s face only gives back to you. Say hello to colleagues in the office and people riding in the elevator with you. Greet the cleaning staff at the office, and remember to say thank you. All of these gestures will make you feel good and give you energy surges for the day.
Record or share positive events from the day. For a big shift in mindset, either write down positive events from your day or simply share them with a friend or partner. You may not notice it immediately, but over time you will feel more engaged in work and home life. It’s a way of training your mind to look at the glass half full rather than half empty. This can be challenging for certain personality types, but it is worth the effort. Just like anything, practice can bring you closer to perfect.
Escape once a day. Even if you live to work, everyone needs an escape. This could mean reading a good book for 15 minutes before or after work. Perhaps it’s a walk around the block during the day to refresh your state of mind. Try taking a lunch break instead of eating in front of your computer. Maybe it’s a seven-minute workout. Whatever it is, try to incorporate something in your routine that makes you feel disengaged from the daily grind.
Take deep breaths. It’s not easy to make yourself stop what you’re doing – especially when you’re extremely busy – to take a deep breath. But it has amazing restorative effects. Do this whenever you are faced with something frustrating either at home or at work. It is a good relaxation technique for your mind and emotions and can help you recalibrate quickly to focus on what’s important.
Stress is known to cause physical and emotional damage. This happens frequently as people are busier than ever. If you don’t take the time to figure out what is significant and what can wait, you won’t be able to escape from your day in small ways. These tiny shifts can have a big impact on your overall well-being and stress levels, and may help you avoid burnout that you feel now or are certain to feel when the holiday season is in full swing.