‘Tis the season for overwhelm and potential burnout. While the holidays can bring so much cheer, they are also often synonymous with loaded to-do lists — both at work and in your personal life. Not to mention the fact that the holiday season is not a joyful time for everyone.
“Working in and of itself can be stressful, but adding the holidays to the mix can leave us exhausted and overwhelmed. With constant reminders of upcoming holy days and celebrations through television commercials and retail displays and ads, we are constantly reminded that the countdown to a chaotic time of year has begun,” says Dr. Marsha Brown, a licensed psychologist and mental health expert who helps professionals in high-stress occupations conquer their stress.
“While many people view the holiday season as an exciting time filled with love, caring and the holiday spirit, others find this time of year to be a source of significant stress, anxiety, loneliness, isolation, and depression. If workers are taking on too much during the holidays, it can ruin what many hope will be a wonderful time.”
Fortunately, there are things you can do at work to alleviate holiday stress. “Time-management, organization and boundaries are key components of keeping holiday stress from carrying over into the workplace. When we overschedule ourselves, lack organization, or fail to set expectations, we are setting ourselves up for unnecessary stressors,” says Linda Archibald, Clinical Therapist and Licensed Master Social Worker.
Below are five workplace habits that will help you manage holiday-associated stressors, according to mental health experts.
1. Set boundaries and prioritize tasks
“Setting boundaries and prioritizing tasks are effective strategies in managing workplace stress. Being open and honest about your expectations and roles with coworkers can set the stage for avoiding additional stressors,” says Archibald.
Brown agrees: “If you have too much work on your plate, don’t try to manage by working while everyone else is out of the office or during an actual holiday,” she says.
“This robs you of your well-deserved off time and can lead to feelings of anxiety, depression and burnout. Instead, assess the tasks you are currently working on to accurately determine what, if any, additional tasks you can reasonably manage. If you can’t take on any more, be honest with your coworkers and supervisors.”
2. Check-in daily with yourself
You’ll also want to check in daily with your routine, organize your schedule and assess your limits, says Archibald: “Although it is the giving season, be sure to not give more of your time and effort than is physically and emotionally possible.”
“During this whirlwind season, we often get so caught up in trying to make sure others are taken care of that we neglect to make time for our own mental health and well-being,” adds Brown.
“Schedule time each week to completely disconnect from work. This means no checking work emails or texts or answering work calls. While multiple daily breaks are ideal (even 10 minutes per day will help you regroup), you can start with five minutes per day and add more time to each break session as the holidays draw near.”
3. Create an office self-care routine
And while you may be busy finding gifts for everyone, Archibald says you shouldn’t forget about giving yourself the gift of self-care.
“Above all, focus on giving yourself simple gifts that will help minimize stress. These gifts to yourself may include extra time for the morning commute, a healthy lunch, taking time for meditation, socializing with colleagues, or exercising,” she says.
Brown recommends creating an office self-care routine specifically for the holidays. From getting a 30-minute chair massage to giving yourself permission to take a 10-minute power nap or walk around the office, those small rituals can work wonders to reduce stress.
4. Accept your feelings
It’s also important to remove any pressure induced by expectations of what the holidays should feel like. Maybe hearing your coworkers talk about their holiday plans makes you feel a pang of sadness. Perhaps the thought of Q4 targets twists your stomach in knots. Aiming to accept any feelings you may have around this time of the year is a good habit to introduce more relief, more self-compassion and less stress.
“Know that whether you love or dread this time of year, it is OK. You may not feel as cheerful about this season as some around you may seem, or as you believe you ‘should’ feel,” adds Brown.
“There is nothing wrong with that. For some people, this time of year evokes memories of bad experiences and significant losses, including lost family or loved ones.”
5. Don’t try to power through alone
Finally, if you find yourself really struggling to deal with your workload or you’re experiencing a serious case of holiday blues, it’s important to avoid trying to power through it alone. Make it a point to stay connected to others in a meaningful way, or seek professional help.
“It is important to refrain from isolating oneself during this time. If you have a trusted friend or family member, reaching out to them and talking about your feelings, emotions, and frustrations can be helpful during this time of year,” says Brown.
“If you do not have a trusted, go-to individual, there are a number of excellent professionals who can provide support through these difficult times.”