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How to Banish Holiday Stress

How to Banish Holiday Stress
Image credit: Charles Schulz

With the rush of prepping for the end of the year, taking stock of 2013 goals, and managing the to-dos and emotions of the holiday season, the end of year can be a tough time for business owners and employees.

If you find yourself or the people who work for you feeling blue, irritable, or overwhelmed, San Francisco, Calif-based stress reduction teacher and life coach Bill Scheinman, offers these four simple ways to chill.

Related: 6 Tips for Staying Sane Over the Holidays

1. Take a 30-minute time-out. Whether it’s the type of mindful meditation he teaches or simply taking a half-hour to sit quietly, Scheinman says one of the most powerful ways to ward off stress on a daily basis is to engage in some sort of regular contemplative practice. The key is to sit quietly, focus on breathing and rest, he says, so sitting on the couch watching TV and eating chips doesn’t count. 

"People tell me all the time, 'I don't have 30 minutes.' But when you think about all the time you spend watching television, you can find that time somewhere," Scheinman says. If 30 minutes seems daunting, start with five or 10 minutes and work your way up. The point is to get that contemplative time into your day on a regular basis, he says.

2. Check-in with your breath throughout the day. When you feel yourself getting stressed out, stop breathe deeply and notice how your body is feeling. When you’re stressed, your breathing reflects it, says Scheinman. It might be shallow or tight when you’re tense. Notice if you have tension or discomfort anywhere. What emotions are you feeling?

The simple act of stopping and acknowledging those feelings is often enough to diffuse them, says Scheinman. Mindfulness check-ins also allow you to become more aware of how often and when you’re feeling stress and anxiety so you can examine ways to change the triggers. Checking with your breath throughout the day can be a good barometer of your stress level. During periods of tension or anxiety, work on breathing deeper for a dose of nearly instant relaxation, he says.

Related: 5 Ways You Can Be Happier at Work Right Now

3. Get moving. A short walk each day is an excellent thing to do, Scheinman says. A number of studies, including a February 2011 report from Harvard Medical School, have found the link between exercise and stress reduction. When you’re feeling the pressure build , take a walk or head to the gym for the fast track to an endorphin rush.

4. Do one thing at a time. Staying in the moment and focusing on what you’re doing instead of trying to multitask while you’re eating lunch or driving can also give you a break. Take 15 minutes and eat your lunch without doing anything else. When you’re driving, keep the radio off so, allowing you to focus and giving yourself a bit of peace and quiet, he says.

It’s also important to notice when employees are feeling the stress of the season and help them find ways to decompress. If you notice an employee acting sad or unusually irritable, or losing focus and making mistakes, it could be a sign of anxiety or depression. Sharing information about stress reduction or information about counseling resources available through the community or your insurance company could be useful ways of helping employees find help during the stressful holiday season.  

Gwen Moran is a freelance writer and co-author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Business Plans (Alpha, 2010).

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