Christmas is my absolute favorite season of all. Okay, I admit I start decorating at the end of November and I’m one of the last to take my stuff down in January. But every year, as hard as I try, the closer we get to the big day I still have moments when I find my stress level rises and the true enjoyment of the season tends to get lost in the hustle and bustle.
As business owners, this time of year can be a mixed blessing. For some, sales really pick up, which is great, but that can be stressful, working longer hours and trying to meet the demand. For others, business may slow down, which adds pressure because there are monthly goals to reach.
What is portrayed on Christmas cards as a time filled with peace and harmony, in reality can be an extremely challenging time. The combination of financial strain, a longer to do list with less time to accomplish it, and an overloaded social calendar, all of these elements and more can create a stark contrast to the bright lights and joyful music of the holiday season.
To try and help us ALL enjoy the festive season a little more, I would like to offer a few suggestions.
- Don’t forget the basics. A good night’s sleep, exercise and eating well during this hectic time can help keep you balanced and better able to deal with any stressors you may face, like when standing in a checkout line with an irritated, bah humbug, holiday shopper behind you.
- Practice good self-care. When you start to feel overwhelmed, give yourself permission to stop for a short focused relaxation time. A few minutes of deep breathing or guided imagery (which is available in CD, MP3 formats or download an app on your smart phone) can bring calm and clarity to your racing mind. When you feel “I don’t have 5 minutes” to relax, that is exactly when you need to do it!
- Be creative with your gift giving. Financial pressure is common this time of year and it can be stressful not knowing what to buy. Something I started recently is giving friends and family member’s handmade coupons as a gift. For example, a coupon that entitles them to “coffee and dessert at a cafe of your choice, my treat”. The quality time and special memories made will last much longer than any gift you can buy and it’s a win-win, because you get to treat yourself too.
- Keep things in perspective. Yes, it is the season full of social activity and giving & receiving, but let’s be realistic, you can’t do it all. We want to interact, celebrate and acknowledge special people in our lives, but we can’t please everybody. We need to learn to set healthy boundaries for ourselves and know when to say no. If you are saying “yes” on the outside, but on the inside you are screaming “how do I get myself into these things?” you have a boundary problem. It’s okay to be a little selfish in support of your mental health.
Stress around Christmas is something the majority of people, especially women, struggle with, and as female entrepreneurs, we can take it to a whole new level. I encourage you to practice some of these strategies and others that you find work for you. I plan to, so I don’t get caught up in the chaos and miss out on all the things that make this my “most wonderful time of the year”. Take care of yourself and I hope you enjoy a very Merry Christmas!
Helen MacKinnon is the proprietor and a counsellor at A Holding Place which is a Private Practice counselling centre that offers individual, couples and family counselling. Helen and her team are in the business of helping clients deal with life’s problems and develop the skills to manage a stressful and changing environment. Helen is also the winner of NLOWE’s 2014 Entrepreneur of the Year Award in the category of Start-up. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or checkout her website www.aholdingplace.ca.