It’s December, making it official — the most wonderful time of the year is upon us!
But if that’s true, why does it feel so stressful?
As a business owner, you’ve likely been planning for the holidays for months. Everything from decorations and website updates to deciding what sales to run and deals to offer falls on your shoulders. Then, you have to think of your home life and buying gifts for your nearest and dearest without breaking the bank.
By the time the holiday season actually arrives and carols commandeer our radio stations, odds are good you’ve been overwhelmed for a while.
It doesn’t have to be that way. You deserve relaxation and to be shown care and concern, and that starts with self-love and appreciation.
Though you wear a lot of hats and time is tight, self-care is vital, especially during the holidays. Below, we’re exploring 10 ways you can practice showing yourself gratitude. Keep reading for our best holiday self-care tips.
10 Holiday Self-Care Tips
Ah, the holidays…
The weather (and responsibilities) outside could be frightful, but inside? Your mind could be a calm oasis, a place to find refuge during the holiday storm. When business, social expectations, and life seem too much to handle, take a step back and refer to the self-care tips below.
1. Plan your downtime
When you have a million things to do and tasks of all sizes await your attention, it seems difficult to justify taking a break. Adding to that, we live in a world where busyness is glorified. Silvia Bellezza and other researchers at the Columbia Business School “…argue that a busy and overworked lifestyle, rather than a leisurely lifestyle, has become an aspirational status symbol.”
Breaks are essential to a healthy lifestyle, and it’s time to reframe the way you think about them. Taking a break isn’t a sign of laziness; instead, it’s an opportunity for you to refresh and promotes productivity and improved creativity.
Moving forward, make a point to carve a few minutes out of each day for a bit of downtime.
2. Define and delegate
When you started your business, you did it with a vision. You know how you want your business to grow and what needs to be done to get there, and it can be difficult to let others into your plans. In an effort to “do it all,” we resort to multitasking. Multitasking seems fruitful but consider the following passage…
“Research suggests that ‘multitasking, which many have embraced as the key to success, is instead a formula for shoddy work, mismanaged time, rote solutions, stress, and forgetfulness,'” says author Kimberly Himes.
If you feel like the best way to get everything done is to do it yourself, and if you’re drowning in responsibilities, we’ve got one word for you: Delegate!
Defining what needs to be done and delegating those tasks “helps leaders manage their workload and maximize productivity while also helping employees build skills.“
Learning to delegate helps relieve stress. You can rest easier knowing that delegation prepares your team to handle whatever happens if you are unavailable due to an emergency, or just taking a break.
Have you ever had someone tell you to “calm down” during a time when you were visibly stressed?
It didn’t help much, did it?
When you’re stressed, your prefrontal cortex is impaired. That’s the part of your brain responsible for rational thinking, so following a simple instruction like “calm down” seems nigh impossible.
Stress impacts your decision-making and ability to interpret information related to your business, too.
So, what can you do to minimize the effects of stress and regain mastery over your mind?
The Harvard Business Review reports that “different emotions are associated with different forms of breathing, and so changing how we breathe can change how we feel.”
The critical thing to remember is this: When you exhale, your heart rate slows down, and when you inhale, it speeds up. A popular breathing technique to combat stress is inhaling to a count of four then exhaling to a count of eight. Try that for a few minutes the next time you feel stressed.
4. Prioritize what matters
When you’re running a business and trying to make a profit, it can be hard to remember what the holiday season is truly about. Keeping your business afloat and successful is, without a doubt, important. Still, it isn’t the only important thing in your life.
If the pressures are mounting, turn to your loved ones and favorite activities to help ease the burden. Whether you find comfort with your family or pets, or close friends, remember that the holiday season is about coming together with those you love.
Make time for a holiday movie with your kids after a day at work. Or call up a friend and snuggle on the couch with your dog as you rewatch “The Grinch” for the first time in years.
If coming together with family and friends sounds more stressful than relaxing, then make time for what does relax you. Is it playing a league sport in the evenings? Do arts and crafts warm your heart? Whatever it is that makes you happy — make time for it!
5. Eat good food
It’s the holiday season and cookies, crackers, and assortments of baked goods abound. We don’t think you should restrict yourself from the sweet treats the holidays offer; just enjoy them in moderation.
Here’s why: Good food equals a good mood.
The next time stress has you feeling blah, combat it via your plate. According to the Cleveland Clinic, “The best meal to enhance your mood is one that combines complex carbohydrates with lean proteins and colorful produce.”
Complex carbohydrates, like those found in sweet potatoes or quinoa, can increase the availability of serotonin, a “feel-good” chemical, in your brain. Proteins have been associated with increased levels of the chemicals dopamine and norepinephrine, both of which influence a person’s mood and concentration.
And fruits and vegetables? There’s evidence “that people who eat more fruits and vegetables have a lower incidence of mental disorders, including lower rates of depression, perceived stress, and negative mood.”
6. Don’t skimp on sleep
A smoothly running business isn’t usually accomplished by short work. Depending on the situation and what needs to be completed, that might mean burning the midnight oil and forgoing sleep. While you can probably get away with a poor night’s sleep every now and again, don’t make a habit out of it.
The American Psychological Association says that “sleep is a necessary human function — it allows our brains to recharge and our bodies to rest.” And missing out on sleep is more detrimental than you might think. “Sleep is so crucial that even slight sleep deprivation or poor sleep can affect memory, judgment and mood.”
To sleep better, try to establish a nighttime routine. This routine can include meditation, breathing techniques, reading, or other relaxing activities. Additionally, try to stay off your phone and turn off your TV before starting your bedtime routine.
7. Understand your emotions
The holidays are a time when most of us feel pretty strongly. Whether those emotions are good or bad depends on our personal histories, external influences, and much more.
Around the holidays, many people resort to overworking, overeating, or drinking as ways to compensate for feelings they don’t know how to manage. Instead of burying your emotions and feeling the resultant stress, explore and acknowledge them. You can do this by journaling or seeking outside advice on how to manage your feelings and emotions.
When you begin to feel stressed and overwhelmed, sit down with a notebook and a pen and try to determine why you’re feeling the way you are. The more you practice acknowledging your feelings and understanding where they come from, the less control they’ll have over you.
When the stress of the holiday season gets to be too much, take a step back. It’s okay to disconnect if you need to.
Disconnecting looks different depending on your situation and needs. Maybe it means turning your phone off for set amounts of time each day or muting notifications. Or perhaps your version of disconnecting includes meditation, a literal forgetting of self.
Taking a step back from it all doesn’t mean you’re a failure or don’t know how to cope. Sometimes, life is just that busy and you need to find a quiet refuge where you can collect yourself and rebuild momentum.
Looking for ideas on how to take a break from the Internet and other stress-inducers this holiday season? Take a look at this curated list of ideas on how to disconnect from social media and more.
9. Talk about it
We’ve all been there — so stressed out that we get lost in our own heads and ways of thinking. When that happens, turn to someone you trust and talk it out. Getting an outsider’s view can offer perspectives on your issues and stressors that you likely wouldn’t reach on your own.
Eva Stubits is a Houston-based clinical psychologist specializing in stress management. She says “that talking about how stressed you are can help you get it out of your system.“
“It’s kind of like the pressure cooker analogy: If you don’t open a lid periodically, the steam can build up and cause you to feel even more stressed. If you let it out, it can help you process whatever it is you’re worried about.”
10. Work it out
You’ve heard it before, exercise helps keep you healthy. That doesn’t mean that exercise only keeps your body in good form, it keeps your mind healthy, too.
Exercise in almost any form helps your body to reduce stress and its effects. Whether you choose to walk, run, or perform burpees and wall squats in your office, the important thing is that you get moving. Physical activity increases the number of endorphins in your body, producing a “feel good” effect in your brain. You may have heard this phenomenon referred to as a “runner’s high,” but any good aerobic exercise can lead to the same result.
If you’d like to learn more about the effects of stress on your body, and how to implement an effective workout routine, check out this article from the Mayo Clinic.
Making the Most of the Holiday Season
We hope these self-care tips help you make the most of the holiday season. Let us know what else you do to manage stress during the holidays in the comments below.