Add to Your “To Do” List: Subtract Holiday Stress
Stressed out by too many tasks on your holiday “To Do” list? Well, here’s a solution offered in a Harvard Business Review article: “add more items to your list.” I know, I know, that’s not the answer you expected to hear, but read on to see why it just might be the answer that you need.
Throughout my years of practicing medicine, I’ve come to notice a common thread among some of my patients who show certain symptoms. Usually the culprit is stress brought on by overwhelming schedules or unbalanced family/work lives. Many of them are juggling a lot of obligations with no time off, little sleep and no outlet to diffuse that stress. Right now, you may be nodding in agreement seeing a similarity within your own daily regime. Just think, this is what goes on during most people’s regular non-eventful times—now factor in the festivities and busyness of the holidays and you could really be heading for overload.
Stress comes in two types: chronic and acute. It’s important to recognize which type is tugging at our emotional balance in order to know how to conquer it. Chronic stress is persistent and requires medical attention because it strikes and weakens our immune systems. It wrecks havoc on our lives as it contributes to increased cortisol levels in our body that may lead to the accumulations of abdominal fat. Excessive abdominal fat increases one’s risk of heart disease and diabetes.
For now, let’s focus on the second type of stress, which is acute. It is the most common form of stress and is caused by either the pressures of the recent past or the impending pressures of the near future. Those two pressures pretty much sum up the holiday season, right?
Take for instance the act of gift-giving. For some people, this conjures up feelings of pure joy, while for others it carries a rather dreadful connotation because of the related pressure it brings. Particularly if there’s the added burden to not repeat a past holiday gift-giving disaster, the act of giving could very likely spur feelings of anxiety, angst and undue worry.
Peter Bregman, CEO of Bregman Partners, Inc and contributing author to the Harvard Business Review, suggested that taking on more when you’re feeling stressed actually helps you win the war on stress. It works that way because when we’re stressed out, we tend to feel alone and disconnected from others who appear to be doing fine. This will cause us to complain about our situation to anyone who will listen. As the saying goes, “misery loves company” so we begin creating camaraderie with other complainers. The truth of the matter is that complaining only serves its purpose of making us feel good for a little while; afterwards, we feel worse.
On the other hand, putting ourselves in a position to reach out and help fellow complainers to lessen their load (which, no doubt, is as overloaded as ours, if not more!) does wonders to dissipate their complaining as well as our own. Not only does helping others make you feel connected but extending goodwill goes a long way towards relieving acute stress. Almost immediately that stress is replaced with ease and contentment. After all, our own problems never seem so bad once we stack them up against someone else’s.
Here are several Pryor Considerations to help you enjoy a balanced and stress-free holiday and beyond:
1) Prepare a daily or weekly TO DO list so that you can plan your time wisely and not miss out on holiday festivities due to work or errands.
2) Split your list according to those items that can be delegated and those that cannot; those items that need your immediate attention and those that do not.
3) On your calendar, actually schedule in time for yourself each day—to nap, mediate, do a crossword puzzle or anything enjoyable—even if for only thirty minutes.
4) Offer specific help to someone, not in a half-hearted, open ended manner such as, “Is there anything I can help you with?” or “Call me if you need help.”
Remember, in all your gift-giving this holiday season, the best gift you can give your loved ones is a healthier stress-free you. Start today to create that gift. You’ll be glad you included it as one more thing on your list.