The final few weeks before the winter holidays can be full of stress. That makes it peak time for burnout. If burnout is creeping in for you or your team, practicing a few resilience techniques can mean the difference between losing your cool and feeling peace on Earth.
Step 1 – Breathe and Break
The end of the year brings with it stressors that no other time of year seems to. At work there is often budgeting, fitting in last-minute meetings, and strategic planning for the next year. At home there is frantic shopping, too much baking, and a whirlwind of parties you are expected to make room for in the busy calendar.
When we’re stressed, our brains produce the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol. When we add these stress hormones into the mix, our brains become worse at higher-order processing, the very skill we need to perform most jobs. So when we’re frantically crossing things off our to-do list, we probably aren’t completing those tasks at a very high level. To be at our best, we have to stop and breathe. We have to take a moment to let the adrenaline and cortisol clear out of our systems.
School teachers have known for years that the weeks leading up to the holidays are the exact wrong time to try to cram in last-minute work. So take a cue from their playbook and schedule your day with fewer tasks and more breaks, getting done the very most important things and letting the others slide. Find time to stop and take deep breaths in the middle of the chaos. The pile in your inbox will still be there the first week in January.
Step 2 – Set Realistic Expectations
We have a rosy picture of how the holiday season is supposed to go. When it doesn’t meet our expectations, we’re filled with frustration. But that frustration is of our own making, so being realistic on the front end can curb that freak-out feeling on the back end.
A large chunk of holiday stress comes from the mistaken belief that this time of year is going to be magically perfect and everyone should be happy. But people can’t be happy when they’re held to unrealistic standards – including you!
No, your toddler twins might not sit still for a greeting card picture, so don’t expect them to. Your grandmother’s holiday roast recipe might not turn out as juicy as you remember it. And your extended family might squabble from the stress of sharing one bathroom. If you prepare for reality to be… well… real in advance, and leave room for humans to be humans, and traffic to be traffic, and work to be work, and life to be life, you may find that some of the holiday screwups lead to the best stories that you’ll laugh at for years to come.
Check back after Thanksgiving for 2 more strategies to sidestep end-of-the-year work burnout!