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Holiday Stress and Depression Looking Outward Helps

Dec 19, 2017

By Karl J. Ahlrichs

“Compared to the holiday-harried average worker, Santa Claus has it easy,” the American Management Association laments.  “The added pressures of holiday-shortened deadlines, end-of-year business demands, and crazed customers, to name a few, take a steep toll on already frayed nerves.”

Consider some of these common causes of holiday season stressors:

  • crisis situations
  • demanding clients
  • expectations from family members
  • conflicts with co-workers
  • tempting holiday foods that are not on your diet

“Stress and depression can ruin your holidays and hurt your health. Being realistic, planning ahead and seeking support can help ward off stress and depression,” the Mayo Clinic staff advises. As a Human Resources professional I particularly want to highlight two pieces of advice from the Mayo Clinic:

Know and accept your limits.  “Learn to say no. Saying yes when you should say no can leave you feeling resentful and overwhelmed.”  If it’s important for you to work overtime, try to remove something else from your schedule to make up for the lost time.

“Don’t abandon health habits.  Overindulgence only adds to your stress and guilt.”

This got me thinking about my personal “Stress Busters” –

Do just one thing at a time.  Multi-tasking is overrated.  Switching from one task to another without completing the first task usually wastes time and decreases productivity. Prioritize the things you need to get done, and start a new assignment only after you’ve finished another one. Managing your time effectively will even out your workload.

Learn and practice relaxation techniques.  My wife is a yoga instructor, and she has convinced me that relaxation is the body’s antidote for stress.  Combining several techniques, for example, deep breathing exercises, muscle relaxation, meditation, and massage therapy can significantly lower stress levels. Yoga or tai chi can be very effective, combining many of the benefits of breathing, muscle relaxation, and meditation while toning and stretching the muscles.

Get a good night’s sleep.  You need sleep to think clearly, react quickly and create memories. It’s well documented that people who get a good night’s sleep perform significantly better than sleep-deprived people. REM sleep, most of which occurs towards the end of a full night’s sleep, is particularly important for consolidating newly learned information.

Make it a priority to do something low pressure and enjoyable.  Listen to music, get physical, get outside, or just give yourself a few minutes off from what you are doing to do simply nothing. If you have children or grandchildren, play with them.  Take a break when you are working on an intense task. A 20-minute power nap can re-energize you for hours, and a brisk walk around the block can help to clear your head and put your thoughts in order.

Do something for someone less fortunate.  “Maintaining a sense of connectedness to others is an important component of stress reduction,” MentalHelp.net emphasizes. “Spending time with others directs our energy outward… Time spent socializing can strengthen your sense that life has meaning and purpose…” 

When you help others, or do ‘altruistic acts’, it moves you toward stress reduction.  Volunteering is a part of life here at Gregory & Appel, and you get a good feeling from being part of a larger community.  The fact that volunteering can be a stress reducer, well, that’s just a bonus.

Of course, all we need to do is remind ourselves of that whenever holiday stress sneaks into our thoughts…Stress reduction is another reason I love working at Gregory & Appel.  Fostering good health habits and achieving wellbeing are significant goals at G&A year-round, what with our free exercise equipment, fitness challenges, and in-office massages. And no one needs to stay after work to take advantage of these “perks”. (Those Mayo Clinic authors would be proud of us.) 

Finally, I love this key piece of holiday stress reduction advice

Prepare “Need-to-Do-For-You” and “Nice-to-Do-For-Me” lists.  Write down all the things you plan to do. For each item you tackle on the first list (buying a gift for someone, baking, etc.), tackle one item from the other list (working out, taking a walk).

On my “Nice-to-Do-For-Me” list, I’ve included a holiday directive to myself: “Count your blessings.” Many of those blessings are human in form: family, friends, and my colleagues at Gregory & Appel.

Have you started your “Nice-to-Do-For-Me” list yet?