Q. I am stressed already work wise. The holidays are coming and I am even more stressed thinking about all that they entail and how much more work I’ll have because the holidays take time out, but the work doesn’t stop. I know stress is bad. I know, take a deep breath, take a walk, but really, what can I do?
A. The first step in dealing with stress is to recognize when you are under stress, and the impact stress can have on you, your thinking, your health and the people around you. The good news is you have taken that step! You are right that there are many things you can do to relieve stress, and don’t minimize the value of a deep breath and taking a walk. Taking the time to incorporate these stress relieving activities into your daily routine will keep the stress level lower, and help you build resiliency. To find out what you can really do, I consulted with Kathleen Greer, Founder and Chairman of KGA, an employee assistance firm headquartered in Framingham, MA.
According to Greer,“The real key to managing stress is to change your thinking about what is in front of you." Greer continues, “Sometimes when we are able to re-frame an upcoming event, we can actually reduce stress immediately. For example, when you are thinking about the holidays, try to find a way to think about them differently. That might mean a different kind of gift giving then you have had in the past, a different approach to parties and events or a different way to reacting to family dynamics.” Different how? Lowering expectations of yourself and others is a start.
Kathleen suggests asking yourself some questions about how you want the next six weeks to go. What might you want to change about gift giving? How might you want to change your reaction to the family member who is always inappropriate? When you find a way to think about these things differently, you can automatically reduce your stress – even thinking about thinking differently gets you started.
Long running work stress is not a good norm. The holidays impact organizations differently. Some ramp up, others slow down and almost every employee feels additional stress around additional commitments or not having additional commitments.
If you are a manager, the most important thing you can do is look at your own situation. You really can’t be helpful to employees if you are over committed or highly stressed. Employees observe how you are handling stress and how they are impacted. Make sure to assess the stress level people are under, and see if you can minimize that stress, not add to it.
If you are not a manager, it may be a good time to talk with your manager to review the top priorities over the next six weeks and work on the projects that are urgent and important, and put to rest what can wait until the new year.