The holidays are a bit two-faced--they're a time of love, joy and generosity, but as expectations rise and time runs out, they also can make you anxious enough to hyperventilate into a paper bag.
1. Check your bedtime.
Your circadian rhythm, which helps regulate when you are awake and when you sleep, is dependent to a large degree on external cues, with perhaps the biggest being light. But with hours of daylight being slashed during winter and jumping time zones to wrap up the year and visit family, your natural rhythm can get seriously out of whack.
That's bad news because poor sleep causes the stress hormone cortisol to spike, all while upping grehlin, a hormone that increases hunger. That can make it harder to eat right, which can influence your energy and focus through the entire day. To fix this:
- Use a sun light to mimic natural sunlight and trick your brain into a consistent rest pattern.
- Schedule flights so you aren't having to get up or arrive in the middle of the night, or gradually adjust your schedule before you leave.
- Watch your caffeine intake so you can respond well when your body asks for sleep.
2. Plan your chow.
When you get busy through the holidays, it's easier to grab whatever's available in the moment. Plus, it's easy to overindulge at office and family get-togethers. While most people only gain about a pound over the holidays, they can struggle to shed it, leading to long-term weight gain over many years.
The big short-term issue is that poor eating habits can mess with energy exercise levels, which can potentially influence your immune system and other health conditions and make it harder to work.
Planning daily and holiday meals lets you enjoy treats while still staying on target for the nutrition and caloric intake you need. And if you make it a habit early, making healthy choices will feel more natural and stress-free when holiday platters come out.
In general, aim for whole, anti-inflammatory foods such as are found on the Mediterranean diet (e.g., berries, fatty fish, peppers, mushrooms), and limit your refined sugars.
3. Tackle family roles and boundaries.
While it might be nice to reminisce with Grandpa Joe over a turkey leg, family can test your patience during the holidays, too--a survey by Healthline found that navagating family dynamics was among the top holiday stressors for respondents. You might feel pressure to put on the perfect holiday, give ultra-nice gifts that aren't in your budget, feel cramped as you host or struggle to explain why you can't take additional off to visit other relatives, for instance.
Productivity can tank as you anticipate these conflicts, and it can stay low after the holidays as you ruminate on what went wrong. Instead, try these tips:
- Have one-on-one conversations about your situation, thoughts and needs before larger get-togethers so issues don't melt down in front of a larger group.
- Assign specific holiday duties, aiming to divide and conquer.
- Make new traditions that aren't tainted with negative memories and that get everyone involved in new ways.
4. Plan well in advance.
Waiting until the last minute to put in for days off, schedule flights and hotels or buy gifts can cause you to be mentally distracted in the office as you try to get out the door. It also can mean you have to shell out more to carry out your plans, which isn't good considering that, according to the Healthline survey above, finances are the number one holiday stressor. Try this instead:
- Set reminders and schedule things you don't want to forget right away, rather than assuming you'll get to them and letting them pile up as you work on your priorities.
- Schedule flights as much as two months in advance if possible.
- Choose a few get-togethers or projects that really have meaning, rather than overbooking yourself.
5. Collaborate more.
Collaborating at work now means that you have multiple sources for great insights and ideas, and that you can leave for the holidays more confident that others can step in for you. It also means that you have someone to keep you accountable and share your feelings with, and that you don't push yourself too hard physically before your break.