The holidays are upon us! Enter warm, fuzzy feelings from family gatherings, seasonal feasts and celebrations. But the flipside of all this excitement is, sadly, stress, which often finds itself rearing its ugly head when we’re at work.
Yes, all of that shopping, planning and entertaining we have ahead of us, while still trying to keep our heads above water at work, lends itself to increased levels of stress. One survey finds that as many as 66 percent of us report greater stress at work during the holidays.
The good news is that there are some very easy, completely free, and totally practical ways to fight holiday stress during the workday. Small actions throughout the day can make a big impact on your level of sanity throughout the entire season.
Re-focus on the present
Meditation can help us reconnect with ourselves and let go of the constant brain chatter we often have about worries, to-dos and the future. Studies have shown it can help us manage anxiety and stress with as little as 2.5 hours of practice per week. And with mindful meditation, you can practice anywhere, anytime, throughout your day, whether on the way to work, at work, or on your lunch break.
The concept of mindful meditation is to focus your attention on the right here and now, and be fully present in the moment. An article on Mindful.com provides some simple, practical ideas for practicing mindfulness during the workday to refocus your attention and reconnect with the present moment.
Help others, feel happier
Many a commuter can testify that the most stressful part of their day is simply getting to work, especially for those caught driving in rush-hour traffic. And during the holiday season, it can become an outright dog-eat-dog situation out there — people cutting each other off, honking, rushing to get to where they’re going. Yet research shows that if we proactively do good things for other people, we can actually feel happier and less stressed out.
A thought-provoking study published in Clinical Psychological Science showed that adults who helped others more throughout the day had higher levels of positive emotions and responded better to stress than on days they did not help others as much. Small acts of kindness like holding elevators or doors open correlated with a greater resistance to stress.
The reasons for this phenomenon are only slightly understood, but one theory is that when we’re compassionate or altruistic, the hormone oxytocin is released in the body, which can have a calming effect on us. Perhaps if we allow that car to cut in front of us on the road, or patiently keep that elevator door open on the way up to the office, we can tap into whatever factors are at play, and enjoy a bit more peace in an otherwise stressful workday.
Take a lunchtime stroll
First of all, please take your lunch break! Studies suggest that as few as one in five workers actually even takes a lunch break. While there are some days where your plate is so full you just have to power through it, you’re only hurting yourself in the long run if you continually skip out on precious time to disconnect from work, eat a nourishing meal, and get a moment’s reflection before hopping back on it.
And one recent study shows that taking a brief walk during your lunch hour — as little as 30 minutes just three times per week — can help you feel more relaxed and able to cope with stress for the rest of your day. They say “walking it off” is a great way to shake off some stress and clear your head, and this study backs it up, so why not get out there on your break to test it out?
Toss on some tunes
Most of us can appreciate the restorative power of a good jam session, no matter what our music genre of choice. And several studies have shown the stress-busting powers of listening to music, whether it’s lullabies soothing babies or music therapy used to help alleviate pain for palliative care patients.
Classical music in particular — though likely not the most jam-worthy genre for many of us — has been shown to help fight stress during exposure to stressful situations. Other music styles such as Native American, Celtic, drums, flutes or strings have also been recommended for their stress-relieving potential, as well as nature sounds like thunder or rain.