The holidays seem to bring an extra layer of stress in the workplace and at home. Holiday parties, year-end deadlines, goal and budget planning for the upcoming year in addition to finding the perfect gift for everyone on your list, all add extra stress to our lives. Read below for some tips to help you avoid the holiday burnout this season.
1. Wake up. The first step gets you about 80% of the way! To reduce stress and become more resilient you need to recognize how much time you spend ruminating. People spend as much as 70% of their daytime hours in a half-awake state, on autopilot or daydream mode. This is where all rumination takes place and all stress is generated.
The alternative is to wake up and focus on where you are and what you are doing in the present. Don’t let your mind drift into worrying about the past or the future.
2. Control your attention. People often feel stressed about their lack of control. The one thing you always have control over is your attention. Once you have woken up, you can use and direct your attention. Practice consciously putting your attention where you want it to be and holding it there.
3. Detach. Detachment is the ability to maintain perspective. A lack of detachment and the tendency to ruminate are intertwined in a spiral of stress: When you ruminate, things balloon out of proportion, and when things are out of proportion, you’re more likely to ruminate.
If you can detach from the situations you are facing, you can distinguish between care and worry. It allows you to reflect and plan rather than ruminate.
4. Let go. To maintain perspective, you need to let go. But that doesn’t mean doing nothing or letting go of the work or tasks or effort. What you let go of is the negative emotions that have become entangled with your situation or issue.
Of course, because of the strength of habit, negative and worrying thoughts will return. When they do, instead of blocking them out or fixating on them, observe and acknowledge them as just thoughts, and let go of them by not continuing to feed them with attention.
Stress-Reducing Tactics to Try
How do you put these ideas into practice, especially at work? Here are a few tactics to try on your own and as you lead others:
-Interrupt a pattern. Stand up. Clap your hands once. Stretch in your chair. Do something to get back into your body and out of your head. If you are in a meeting or other space where you are constrained, just move in a small way and focus on the movement for a moment. Rub your finger and thumb together, or wiggle your toes in your shoes, or move your tongue around your mouth.
-Re-focus on something you can control. People who don’t ruminate do this naturally, saying, why worry about things I can do nothing about? Think about what is in your circle of control.
-Put things in perspective. Play with scale or time. What is the problem or challenge that is happening now? Shrink it down relative to other things you have experienced or stretch out in time: how much will this matter in 12 months?
-Ask direct reports questions about right now. Many people in workplaces suffer over things that are not actually happening. They are imagining the worst possible outcomes. They’re ruminating.
When you see people caught up in the future like this, you can help short-circuit their thinking. Don’t dismiss their feelings, but bring the conversation to the question, “What problem are you experiencing, right now?” This offers something actual and practical you and they can work on directly.
-Start doing walk-and-talk meetings. People often get stuck talking about the same problem over and over, without moving to a solution.
One of the most effective ways to break your direct reports from this pattern is to get them to stand up and go for a walk and talk. Just 5 to 10 minutes walking inside or out breaks people out of a physical pattern. When the body moves, the mind will follow and cognitive patterns will shift, too.
Courtesy of Center for Creative Leadership
“The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another” – William James