12 Ways to Handle December Stress

Do you really think it’s the most wonderful time of the year?

Taking time off work, having good food, and seeing the people you care about are some of the best parts of the winter holiday season in the United States, but whether you celebrate Christmas or Kwanzaa, light up your front yard or a menorah, you probably agree that the holiday season is a season of stress and overcommitment—at least, for the majority of Americans.

Artisan can help with the hectic and calm the Christmas crazies. Here are our 12 best ways to handle your holiday stress. Happy Holidays!

Oh Come, All Ye Caffeinated


The beginning of Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities can easily be used to sum up the modern American holiday season: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness…” Every year, Americans wisely celebrate love for our friends and family, but also perhaps foolishly eat too much and spend too much in our quest to comply with consumer-driven marketing messages for shopping and buying.

Bankrate says six out of 10 of us will overspend (again) this year. Time reports that current research shows a spike in heart attacks, mental health issues, and even deaths seems to correlate with the holiday season.

Forbes cites these 12 holiday health risks:

  1. Overeating
  2. Depression
  3. Overspending
  4. Worry about the new year
  5. Children driving you bonkers
  6. Emotional letdown after the holidays
  7. Household accidents and ER trips
  8. Drinking too much
  9. Holiday office party snafus
  10. Family stress
  11. Unrealistic expectations that the holidays will be “the most wonderful time of the year”
  12. Additional exposure to viruses and bugs in public places

Seven out of 10 people say they are anxious and stressed during the holiday season. Americans are so freaked out during the holidays that the American Psychological Association set up a webpage devoted to helping you handle your holiday stress.

While most of us are on holiday overload—experiencing a state of overindulgence, hyper-caffeination, and occasional joy—we still embrace this time to be with the people we care about. We know that’s the real point of all the hoopla: love, warmth, hot chocolate, and naps by the fire in your favorite pajamas. This is what we wish for during the holiday season, so how can we move away from our stress to reclaim the reason for the season? We have 12 ideas that might help.

Tidings of Calm and Joy


During the holiday season, we run the risk of compromising our finances and health to comply with traditions. But what if there was a way to slow down and create more calm while still promoting camaraderie and joy.

We’ll start with time, that steady metronome that ticks even louder (and seemingly faster) during the holidays. What’s your typical response when your mom guilt-trips you for bringing a store-bought cheese tray to Thanksgiving instead of the homemade cheese soufflé you promised?

Time,” you tell her, “was just not on my side.”

Here are four ways to organize your time when you have less of it than normal:

Four Ways to Get More Out of Your Time Before the New Year

1. Make your list and check it twice. Getting organized requires regaining control over your schedule well before it runs amok. If you’re a digital junkie, there are a few dozen apps that can help you take control and get more done. Simply organizing your calendar and to-do list the night before each workday will help, but the holidays often have the added tasks of cooking, shopping, parties, and work deadlines. In addition to keeping your daily task list and calendar, work a holiday to-do list into your schedule. As you tackle your list, focus on the individual task at hand—an act of mindfulness sure to lessen your stress and balance your chakras.

2. Be a quitter. Ask yourself, “What’s in it for me?” The holidays can be a time to reflect on the prior year and what you learned. Before jumping with both feet into the new year, why not step away from the time-sucking activities that don’t give much of anything in return? (No, you can’t quit the gym.) Can you eliminate a recurring meeting? Do you really want to be the head of that committee? Eliminate the busywork in your life and your schedule will breathe a sigh of relief.

3. Work on things in increments. This is a great calendar management tip. How many times a day are you interrupted from a task you’re trying to concentrate on? Emails, IMs, texts, employee chitchat—it’s a maddeningly hyperactive work world that we live in. That’s bad for our productivity and it heightens our stress. A researcher from the University of California studied the issue and says it takes an average of 25 minutes to regain our concentration after we’re interrupted. You can keep that time if you block out do-not-disturb increments on your calendar.

4. Learn to delegate. Think about your daily workflows. Are there tasks you can delegate to others, either at work or in your personal life? Are there business processes you can automate? Can you have your groceries delivered? How about automating your quarterly reporting? Think about your tasks from a process improvement perspective in order to free up more time.

Time management is not the only problem we typically have during the holidays. If you celebrate Christmas, there is tremendous pressure to give until it hurts. A NerdWallet survey showed 51% of Americans admit to overspending during the holiday season. That’s because we love our people and spending on them makes us feel good. If you’re feeling the financial stress this season, here are four ways to fight back:

Four Ideas to Improve Financial Stress


5. Make a holiday budget and stick to it. To control your financial stress this year, sit down and map out your budget. The holidays can hit us hard with extra expenses like food, travel, and gifts. To get a handle on these stressors, it’s important to know what your money in/money out situation is. Where is that extra spending coming from this year? While it’s too late for 2019, some banks offer a holiday club account where you can place a small amount out of each paycheck over the course of the year. It’s a great way to build a nest egg for next December.

6. Track your spending. Do you know what gifts you purchased last year and how much you spent? Most people don’t know, which is an easy way to get into huge debt. How long did it take you to pay off last year’s holiday debt? Tracking your spending can help you get control over your holiday stress.

7. Walk away from temptation. The more you listen to holiday commercials and the more you’re in the mall, the more likely you are to overspend. You can also leave your credit cards at home and only carry the cash you’re able and willing to spend at the store.

8. Meditate on what really matters. Marketing messages in our consumerist society drive us to buy things we regret later. Commercialism often overshadows the real meaning of the holidays you celebrate. Material objects are just things that may end up at the thrift store someday.

Worrying about money is one of the biggest stressors during the holiday season, but being more deliberate in your approach and avoiding impulse shopping will help you start January off on a better financial note.

We’ve covered the problem of time and our lack of it, and our overspending, but many people fail to take care of their health during the holiday season. Don’t worry—we’ve got you covered with suggestions on how to take better care of yourself this year.

Four Ways to Take Care of Yourself

9. Just say “nope.” You know it’s okay to stay home and veg out, don’t you? Loved ones can inadvertently (or purposefully) put a lot of pressure on each other to do more and be more during the holidays, but try to set realistic expectations around your schedule. You can also set more realistic expectations regarding your financial resources and the gifts you can provide. Spoiler alert: Santa Claus isn’t real and you aren’t him, so unpack your sleigh and kick back with some nog when holiday demands are too much to handle.

10. Take a walk on the not-so-wild side. A simple time management technique is to push the pause button at least once a day. This is especially helpful at work where you can get up and take a walk to refocus and stimulate your mental activity. This is a good idea right after lunch when worker productivity plummets and many people feel like taking a nap. You’ll come back refreshed and invigorated, ready to take on the world.

11. Eat mini meals. One day later, most of us regret the holiday pig-outs that happen when too many rich foods float into the holiday potluck. A little holiday decadence can help commemorate the season, but too much of a good thing is too much of a good thing. Try easing up your caloric intake during potlucks by eating several small meals throughout the day instead of one or two ginormous chow-downs.

12. Treat yourself. During the holidays, we’re all about the giveback. We donate to charity, we volunteer, we make elaborate meals, and we buy elaborate stuff. How will you give back to yourself this year? It could be a day at the spa, a massage, or the gift of not hosting a Christmas party at your house this year. Even simpler, it could be a night alone in a bubble bath without the kids. However you like to celebrate the season, make sure you treat yourself as well as you treat everyone else on your “nice” list.

Our 12 ways of the holidays are designed to help you cope with the stressors of the seasons—but your employer should also engage in ways to improve your work-life balance during this stressful time of year.

A Cautionary Note for Employers


Managers should stay alert to the signs of stress during the holiday season and be aware of the negative impact it can have on employee productivity. The demands of holiday line production, stressed-out customers, and personal pressures all take a toll on your valuable workers. Feeling overwhelmed is a common theme among the American workforce this time of year, so employers should lean in to promote a healthier, happier workplace.

Listen and talk to your employees during the holiday season and pay particular attention to maintaining teamwork and morale, as well as safety standards in the workplace. Accommodating flexible scheduling in November and December is just one way employers can cut employees some slack during this hectic time. Consider staffing up with Artisan Talent to help your creative teams avoid burning out this year. Just give us a call—we can help.

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