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The holiday season can be difficult for some of us, for many different reasons. Business Optimizer looks at the facts and considers some strategies for dealing with holiday stress.

The holiday season can be full of joy and excitement. But it can also be filled with stress and difficulty. So, what’s the best way to deal with holiday stress?

Is holiday stress real?

A poll by YouGov in the UK found that a third of women and a fifth of men feel stressed about Christmas. Of the 26% of the population that do feel holiday stress, financial worries were a significant source of stress.

What can cause holiday stress?

With the difficult economic conditions around the world, practical and financial concerns are a significant concern for many this year.

However, Christmas and the holiday season can be difficult for all sorts of reasons. This includes:

  • Missing people who aren’t around
  • Dealing with people or situations you’d rather avoid
  • Loneliness
  • Access to support and services
  • Disagreements about how, where or with whom to celebrate

Practical strategies for coping will depend on the cause of your holiday stress but, whatever the cause of your holiday stress, experts suggest reaching out to people who can help – whether this is a friend or relative, local support group, or national organization.

What should you do if you are experiencing holiday stress?

It might be that you are struggling this year for the first time. Or you might have experienced holiday stress in the past and are now dreading it this year.

The Mayo Clinic suggests the first step is to acknowledge your feelings. It’s ok to feel overwhelmed, stressed or unhappy – whatever the time of year. The second step is to reach out. If you aren’t comfortable talking with a friend or relative, volunteering can be a rewarding way to reach out while helping others.

Can mindfulness help with holiday stress?

Director of the John Hopkins Mindfulness Program Nena Gould Ph.D suggests some strategies for managing holiday stress:

  • Accept imperfection
  • Don’t lose sight of what really counts (ask yourself: where does this fit in the grand scheme of things? Can I use this moment of frustration as an opportunity to reflect?)
  • Respond with kindness

Can holiday stress spill over into working life?

The Harvard Business Review has found that the holiday season can compound workplace stress for those suffering from it.

It points out, “Employees are often contending with shortened deadlines, meeting expectations for the end of the fiscal year, and coping with stressed-out customers, which are just a few of the reasons for their increased anxiety. The resulting costs for employers can be quite significant.”

Productivity can fall by as much as ten to twenty percent during December, says HBR.

What can managers do about it?

HBR suggests a few strategies managers can deploy to help their people cope:

  • Reach out: ask your team how they want to celebrate the holidays.
  • Be inclusive: recognize that not everyone celebrates the holidays and those who do have different traditions and ways of celebrating.
  • Protect personal time: HBR suggests offering an extra early December day off for gift shopping – a great way to boost loyalty and, in the long term, productivity.
  • Rebalance workloads: plan for a drop in productivity so that people feel less stress. Consider whether deadlines can be pushed out to the new year.
  • Give time instead of gifts.

Conclusion: Nurture good habits so you don’t get overwhelmed

With all the additional pressures of the holiday season, it can be easy to let the things that make you feel good fall by the wayside.

For more tips and strategies about beating stress, read some blogs from our archive: