An old Christmas tune says we’re in “the most wonderful time of the year.” We at Brandermill Woods love the holiday season—the lights, the baked goods, the carolers, the time to spend with our families. There’s a lot of magic in the weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, but the holidays can also be incredibly stressful:
- Dec. 21 is the winter solstice, the “shortest” day of the year. The lack of sunlight can cause seasonal affective disorder and dampen your mood.
- Time off from work can be a blessing, but it can just as easily be a curse as you struggle to get through deadlines or work around vacation schedules.
- The traffic on the highways and the crowds in the stores can elevate your blood pressure.
- And family dynamics can often be a major source of stress.
Not everyone will experience stress from these triggers, but most of us will feel at least a little flare of something over the next few weeks. To help you de-stress over the holidays, here are a few tips to keep in mind until the days start getting longer and everyone gets back into their routines in the New Year:
1. Get outside.
Yes, it can be cold, and yes there’s not a lot of daylight, but the vitamin D from the sun is one of the best ways to restore your good mood. Try taking a 15-minute walk during your lunch hour every day. If the rain, snow, or wind aren’t conducive to a nice stroll, at least spend some time by a big window.
2. Leave early and plan for delays.
Whether you are heading out for some last-minute Christmas shopping or just need to run a few errands, you’re going to hit traffic and crowds. If you can resign yourself to this fact and plan on the trip taking longer than you anticipate, you’ll be much less frustrated when the inevitable happens. Consider putting some Andy Williams or Brenda Lee in your car’s CD player and try to enjoy the ride.
3. Remember, the work will be there when you get back.
It’s far too easy for most of us to work ourselves into a frenzy over deadlines and paperwork, but with a few exceptions (“Hello, end-of-year tax planning), most deadlines are negotiable, even if we don’t like to admit it to ourselves. If you can, try to take a step back and keep a cool head about your workload this holiday season.
4. Take your vacation.
As a corollary to the tip above, many Americans tend to be workaholics. Thanks to the ubiquity of smart phones, it’s easy to log in and “take care of this one last thing” on the weekend, or in the middle of the vacation. The problem is that when you work through your break, you never get the requisite down time to recharge your batteries. You need a break to avoid burnout. When you come back after an unplugged vacation, you’ll be sharp, rested, and ready to go.
5. It’s OK to say no.
Finally, family: Sometimes a trip to see your extended family might feel more like work than your actual work. Family is important, but it’s OK to set guard rails, or even to politely decline invitations for a visit. No one says you have to drive to Orlando to visit your uncle and his tribe for New Year’s, or zig-zag your way around Virginia to see every relative you haven’t seen in 12 months. If the holiday traffic and schedule is stressing you out, consider taking a few long weekends in January or February to visit with them outside the holidays. The traffic on Presidents Day weekend is a dream compared to Christmas Eve.
We hope everyone has a safe and merry holiday season. We’ll see you in the New Year!