I still haven't sent out holiday cards and I'm not sure I'm going to this year. But each day when my mail arrives and I open other's cards, I feel horrible. We all have experienced that moment when the smallest undone "to-do" convinces you that your entire life is out of whack. During the holidays, these unaccomplished tasks at work and home weigh on us like the pounds from seasonal feasts.
"If you stress over one thing, you can quickly go into a downward spiral, " Nancy Solomon, a Miami stress/mental health counselor said to me a few years back. "One thing leads to another and you start to tell yourself that everything in your life is not OK, it never was OK."
But there are ways to juggle it all during the holiday season:
- Don't set yourself up for stress. Even if you like to bake, if you're bringing something to the office holiday party, don't spend the midnight hours baking and go to bed angry or arrive at the party stressed.
- Delegate. Before you take vacation days, figure out what must be done and what can wait. Ask a co-worker to handle small elements of a task that needs to get done so you don't do it all before your vacation. You can return the favor.
- Be prepared for the boss. Know what to say when a boss asks you to take on tasks performed by a now-vacationing coworker. Do what you can do, but if you are going to walk out of the office and start swearing at your family or kick the dog, you've got to say no.
- Postpone big decisions. Don't make any major life or career decisions until after the new year. Some of us feel overwhelmed in our efforts to balance holiday shopping, work and family. In January, you may see things differently. Or not.
- Limit personal appearances at events. Choose which business and social events you will attend. Then, make brief appearances. Solomon suggests: "When you walk in, find the host and say, "I can't stay for long, but I wanted you to know I care about your business.' Stay 10 minutes and leave. If it's a person you want business from, that person will remember that you came and not remember when you left."
- Prioritize your to-do list. If your priority for the day is to wrap gifts at night, plan your around it. If you do things in a scattered way, you'll look your to-do list and think, "How am I going to get that all done?'
- Stay calm when one of those to-dos gets complicated. A friend of mine couldn't find her business holiday card list. Complicating the matter, she has a new secretary. She devoted a morning to it, found an old list from a few years back, updated it and completed the task rather than stressing over it.
- Don't give up routines. Regardless of how harried you are, don't give up exercising, meditating or sleeping. It keeps you sane during this chaotic season.
- Stop trying to be a perfectionist at work and home. People want this to be the best Christmas ever or the best New Year's ever. It is just supposed to be a happy time. That means you might have to let something go or change the way something traditionally is done.
- Think experiences. Instead of spending hours and loads of cash searching for the perfect gift, come up with something fun to do with your child or spouse, maybe a Christmas day bike ride or a night looking at holiday lights and drinking hot chocolate. People remember experiences more than what they open in a gift box.
The goal is to get to the new year with energy to strategize for a great 2011!