Parties will be had, White Elephant office swaps will be planned, and exorbitantly expensive plane tickets home will somehow suck up every penny you’ve saved in the last six months. But beyond that, there’s that whole pre-holiday workplace stress-fest thing.
With office closures nearing, your travel time cutting into email availability, and coworkers taking extended vacations, this time of year can feel especially stressful at work. Here are a few suggestions for making the most of your limited hours. Because after all, the goal is that you won’t have to think about work while plowing through all the mashed potatoes.
1. IF YOU’RE TAKING TIME OFF, MAKE A DETAILED EXIT PLAN
2. MONOTASK, YOU MADWOMAN
You’ve probably heard that human beings aren’t particularly well-suited to multitasking, and it’s particularly true during a hectic time of year. If you find yourself juggling countless projects, faced with a boss who “just drops in,” and panicked coworkers who are worried about getting projects off their own plates before checking out—hit pause. Like now. *It’s important to know your limits when it comes to your work. If you’re already feeling overwhelmed, it’s okay to say no to a project or ask for help when things aren’t going as smooth as you would like. You’d rather get some help and complete the project than not finishing on time, which could cause more problems.
“Mindfulness” is the buzzword of the moment but, to be totally honest, most of us aren’t exactly meditation fanatics. Still studies show the act of taking a step back and focusing really does change your brain—literally—meaning it will help you destress and face both short- and long-term challenges.
If you’re feeling open-minded (pun intended) to taking a few minutes to meditate, try an app like Headspace or Buddify. If not, try to at least schedule 10 minutes into your workday to really turn off. Go for a walk or find somewhere quiet to close your eyes and just mellow. *I find that even taking 3 deep breaths for a count of 5 seconds to inhale and 5-6 seconds to exhale is a great way to take just a few seconds or one minute of your day to find that peace in the chaos of this thing called life. Sighing out helps me if I take a breath and then allow myself to make some noise on the exhale, instantly, I feel less stressed and more grounded. Kaiser Permanente also has free guided meditations on their website: kp.org/listen, even 3-5 minutes is helpful.
3. NEW TREND ALERT: WORKPLACE LAMAZE
Ever notice your breath start to speed up when you’re in an anxiety-inducing meeting? That’s an actual part of the flight or fight response. By regulating your breathing in these situations, you can trick your body into chilling out. That’s because slow, deep breath physically slows you down by stimulating a parasympathetic reaction in your system. What that means in simpler terms, according to Dr. Esther Sternberg, a researcher at the National Institute of Mental Health:
“The relaxation response is controlled by another set of nerves — the main nerve being the Vagus nerve. Think of a car throttling down the highway at 120 miles an hour. That’s the stress response, and the Vagus nerve is the brake. When you are stressed, you have your foot on the gas, pedal to the floor. When you take slow, deep breaths, that is what is engaging the brake.”
In our case, we all sucked on a couple of Rescue Pastilles (for those who aren’t familiar, Rescue makes all-natural stress relievers from pastilles to Rescue Remedy spray—all great options to throw in your bag when you’re on the go) and each tested one of these breathing exercises. The whole team felt that it really did help, even if it just kept us calm long enough to make it to lunch. *I like to buy Rosewater spray at Sprouts because rosewater has the same effect and the smell helps you feel happier. Whenever I feel stressed at work, or a colleague says they are stressed, I always ask if they want a spray of rosewater. Many mornings I spray the rosewater on my face before I put my makeup on.
4. GET BY WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM A FRIEND
5. EAT THE HOLIDAY COOKIES
6. PUT DOWN YOUR PHONE. SERIOUSLY.
Research shows that millennials are more stressed out than any previous generation thanks to multiple factors (bad sleeping habits, never totally “clocking out”, etc), but here’s one that you might not have considered: your smart phone. Turns out millennials are angst-ridden, anxiety-driven messes because of our excessive access to technology. We hate being tied to our phones, yet we also have serious anxiety when we don’t have them on us. Catch-22, right?
The key is taking back control. FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) is real—studies have shown that constant social media contact in which we compare ourselves to others really does make us depressed—and the best way of escaping it is to unplug. Schedule time, preferably once a day, in the next few weeks to leave your phone in another room. If you can stand it, charge your phone away from your bedroom so you can’t check Instagram first thing in the morning. Your body and mind will thank you. *Social media cleanses are necessary and many nights after work, I don’t check my phone and it’s fabulous to just be in the moment with friends, dogs and family.