Feeling Stressed this Season? Get Back To Holiday Basics
For many of us, the last month of the year can be more stressful than all the other months combined. In our businesses and at work, we’re trying to complete year-end deliverables or projects, assess or wrap-up annual goals, to finish budgeting and planning for the coming year. At home, there are at least two major holidays, seasonal socializing and commitments, not to mention long school breaks if you have children.
Much of the work I do with clients, individually and organizationally, is essentially about what getting clear on what success looks like for them and taking concrete steps to move in that direction. This is true whether we’re launching a critical project in a business, coaching a leadership team or working with an individual business owner to create more of the experience of success he or she is envisioning across all areas.
This work is not necessarily easy or straightforward. Yet the same concept can be collapsed to the last quarter and last month of the year: to help you survive – and even enjoy! – this holiday season and year-end.
- Take the time to get clear on the strategic vision or desired outcomes. And communicate this to others who are a part of creating those outcomes.
- Identify and take more aligned actions to move in that direction.
- Check in regularly and adjust course if something’s not working.
One of the keys to success in this work is intentionality. With intentionality, it’s also possible to enjoy the holidays without exhausting yourself or overspending in the process.
If you’re going to go all out for something, it’s important that a) you get as clear as you can on what you’re going all out for and b) that it’s something that’s important to you: whether that’s financial freedom, a more flexible schedule (and more influence over how you use your time), or your own health and wellbeing.
How We Create Our Own Seasonal Stress
Most of us have areas we need to unpack that more, to be more intentional. How we spend the holiday season is often one of them.
So much of the anxiety that we feel, that we create for ourselves, in fact comes down to unclear intentions: visions, values and directions that we haven’t defined very well for ourselves, for our loved ones, for our teams, for our customers. That gap between what we know at some level is important and what we’re actually thinking, saying and doing creates dissonance, discord and ultimately leads to a great deal of disillusionment.
For example, when we say “ I want to be successful.” “ I want a successful business” “I want a successful product launch” It’s important to have a pretty clear idea of what that means for you, for your team, for your customers before you invest your time, money and energy toward it.
If you collapse this concept down to the last month of the year: the same is true for the holidays. When you say you’d like to enjoy the holidays more this year or have a less-stressful year-end, what does that look like for you?
It’s easy to fall into a busy year-end schedule that doesn’t reflect our own values and intentions for the season because we feel it’s expected of us, we don’t believe it’s possible to create a different year-end experience or we simply haven’t committed to make a change.
What Does Success Mean to You This Season?
The meaning and enjoyment of the holidays can easily get lost in the details of an overcommitted social schedule, extra commitments at work such as year-end planning and project wrap-ups or the stress of holiday gift buying.
Yet so much of what we celebrate during the holiday season, across cultures, traditions and heritages, was designed for:
- Celebrating life with those with care about most
- Setting ourselves up for new opportunities and beginnings, as we look to a new year ahead
- Enjoying traditions, as we honor beliefs and customs in our family and community and
- Other important occasions from weddings and anniversaries to annual trips with family and friends.
And the enjoyment of these holiday basics can be easily lost sight of in the stress of overloaded to-do lists and seemingly never-ending holiday obligations.
What’s Important to You at Year-End?
Just as you specify strategy and action plans in your business or organization, I invite you to take a few minutes to get clear on what’s important to you this holiday season. What does the spirit of the season mean to you? How do you define success as you approach calendar and possibly fiscal year-end in your business or organization?
There are many meaningful and fun ways to celebrate the holidays without exhausting yourself in the process, forcing year-end projects to completion or over-spending on things that aren’t meaningful to you or your loved ones.
This isn’t always easy when much of our culture and media, even colleagues and loved ones, encourage us to do and buy more.
- What’s important to you as you look at the last month of the year in your business?
- What are your most important priorities at work?
- How can you make this holiday season more meaningful and enjoyable for yourself and those you love?
It’s so easy to follow a path of “success” that was defined by someone else: society, educational institutions, parental influence or even respected professional mentors. This is especially true over the holidays and at year-end, where I see many individuals and businesses doing the same thing year over year without sufficiently evaluating how useful or effective it is. In time, you may find that something is lacking for you, your organization, your business: you want something more or different even if you can’t quite put your finger on what that is.
3 Ways to Get Back to Holiday Basics
I can tell you from my own experience moving away from a stressful and always overbooked holiday season (one where I’d almost inevitably get sick during the last few months of the year) to one that for me honors more of what’s most important in my business and my personal life that you can create new year-end priorities and even holiday traditions.
This may be the most powerful gift you can give yourself, your team, your family and friends and even your customers.
It’s possible and even fun to create new holiday traditions that help you get back to year-end essentials and holiday basics, whatever that looks like for you.
Here are 3 strategies to do just that:
- Focus on what’s most important. The year-end holidays can be a wonderful time for taking stock of what matters most to you across the work that you’re doing and outside of work. This may include acknowledging valued clients or team members, a focus on your family, community, helping those less fortunate, spending time in nature, winter sports or even traveling abroad. Perhaps it’s important to you to find time for rest, rejuvenation and self-care. Perhaps you want to schedule fun outings with friends or your team. If it’s not clear what’s most important, start by identifying what aspects of year-end you find the most difficult to deal with. At work, it may be extra meetings to deal with reporting, budgeting or planning. At home, it may be holiday shopping or additional school or social events to attend. Once you’ve identified what makes this time of year more stressful, you’re better able to come up with a strategy to manage it, whether through hiring help, getting creative with your scheduling or just setting more realistic expectations.
- Invest in happiness by practicing intentional giving. If you feel drawn to give the people in your life gifts, consider presents that encourage positive lifestyle choices, gifts which represent your company’s brand and values or whose impact will continue to be felt long after the holidays. Recent studies have shown that money can more effectively buy happiness when you use it to buy yourself time instead of things. Think about what tasks you can hire out or outsource in exchange for relieving the pressure: have meals delivered, outsource cleaning of your home and office, hire help to run errands. Instead, donate your energy to making someone else’s life better by volunteering at a homeless shelter or helping those in your community who may be less fortunate. Year-end is also a great time to make your charitable donations. Or give family and friends the gift of experiences or of your time instead of material gifts.
- Schedule the season by being intentional with your time. Consider what the spirit of the holidays means to you: is it one of faith, charitable giving, spreading love, feeling connection with those you care about most, wrapping up loose ends at work or looking ahead to your goals for the next year? Be intentional about how you schedule your time, including which holiday invitations you send and accept, what year-end meetings you need to schedule or attend, what people, places or activities help you get into the spirit of what the season means to you. You can plan a single get-together that includes relatives or acquaintances that you seldom see, colleagues and team members you’d like to build relationships with, a once-a-year time that emphasizes togetherness, fun, and celebration. Remember to allow time for basics like sufficient sleep, exercise and hydration – all of which can be easily overlooked in shorter winter days full of extra commitments of time and energy.
When exploring what’s most important to your business or work environment this year-end, consider the meaning of the holidays and getting back to the spirit of the season. Be open to shifting patterns, traditions and maybe even a few old beliefs that aren’t supporting your personal or professional success any more.
The most simple things can be the most profound: a pause for gratitude before a meal or a nighttime walk under the stars can help you reconnect with these holiday basics.
Be intentional about doing more of what’s most important, what fulfills and sustains you — and then adjust if needed throughout the month. Push pause before your celebrations become more of a hassle than a happy time. You’ll not only enjoy the holidays more but you’ll also be better able to give the gift of showing up as the best version of yourself for those you care about most.
Get back to the basics of generosity, good spirit and goodwill, and your holiday will almost certainly be a rewarding one.
If you enjoyed this post and want support in moving past old limits to get clear on what’s most important to you in the coming year, get your free guide with 5 ways to find more balance and meaning today or contact me directly to see if you qualify for a complimentary strategy session.
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