In my December Monthly EQ Newsletter for Project Managers, I identified 10 tips for surviving the month and the holidays. I’ve received so much feedback about these tips that I am going to share them with you as well. If you would like to get the monthly newsletter, please sign up at the Project Advisors Group home page.
- Work – There may be major challenges to working during this month including blackout dates, weather and travel problems, and numerous people out of the office for vacations and illnesses. For those of us trying to accomplish project work, December can be a trying month.
- Holidays – The demands of the holidays include last minute gift buying, home decorating, attending events and parties, and hosting parties all of which can be extremely stressful.
- Family – There’s nothing like family to bring out the best and worst in us. Your relatives know your vulnerabilities and are adept at pushing your buttons. And blended families have their added stresses during the holidays.
How can we take responsibility for our emotional well being during this challenging time? I’ve written these ten tips and immediate action steps to help you take charge of your emotional well-being so that you not only survive but thrive during this month and the holiday season.
Ten Tips for Emotional Responsibility This Month
Tip #1 – Be emotionally aware.
Strive to be as aware as possible of your feelings. This may be obvious if we are exploding with anger or jumping with joy. But we also need to pay attention to a dull ache in our stomach, a looming sense of dread, or a negative cloud around people or events. Don’t ignore or numb out from your feelings.
Do Now: Take action to protect yourself during this season. A helpful reminder of common emotional hot buttons is the HALT acronym. HALT stands for hungry, angry, lonely, and tired. When we are feeling any of those things, we are extremely vulnerable emotionally. We can easily go off on someone or have an emotional breakdown. Try to recognize when you are vulnerable and take steps to remedy the situation.
Tip #2 – Drink with care.
Alcohol can serve to numb or detach you from your emotions and hence is the reason many people use (and abuse) it. Detaching from emotions is not a success strategy! Better to use your awareness of emotions to figure out what they are trying to tell you. And be especially careful about drinking at the company holiday party! Don’t finish the year on a down note by overindulging with those you work with.
Tip #3 – Plan Ahead.
Make plans to do the things you want to do or get together with people you want. Don’t wait for things to happen to you or react to the invitations of others, make plans to do the things that you find nurturing.
Do Now: Get out the calendar now and block out the time for the activities and events that you want to do and that you find nourishing. Be prepared to say no to invitations that don’t nourish you; you aren’t obligated to attend any events you don’t want to attend.
Tip #4 – Work Ahead.
There is often a lot to be done around the holidays. We have to prepare for parties, buy gifts, run errands, and attend events. If you tend to procrastinate, choose to do it differently this year. Get in front of the curve with your gift buying. Make a list of who you need to buy for and tackle it early on. Shop online to make it even easier. A closet full of wrapped and labeled gifts will leave you feeling more peaceful and happy and help you to give to others with a cheerful heart, instead of a resentful one. It truly is better to give than receive especially when you are out in front of it.
Do Now: Buy an extra gift or two and keep them aside in case there is someone you forgot. (I recommend you make it something you will like in case you don’t have to give it away!).
Tip #5 – Prepare Yourself.
It helps to prepare yourself for the likely emotional moments you may experience during the holidays. For example, you may already have a pretty good idea if you are likely to bump into your ex-spouse, your lecherous Uncle Jim, or your arch-enemy. I don’t suggest you put on a happy face or a mask when you see them, but prepare yourself mentally so you are not surprised or caught off guard.
Do Now: If you anticipate conflict with a specific person, role play it ahead of time with your spouse or a friend. Choose and practice an ideal or graceful response to that person well before you run into them. By role-playing in advance, you’ll increase the likelihood of responding to that person in a way that will make you feel good.
Tip #6 – Be in Community.
Make it a point to choose to be in community rather than be alone during this month. Reach out, take a risk and invite others to be with you or invite yourself to join them. Create the outcomes you want instead of being a victim to circumstances.
Do Now: Take the time now to create a list of people that you want to connect with over the holidays and make plans or reach out to them now.
Tip #7 – Get Support.
For some people, the holidays can be a lonely time. This may be your first Christmas alone due to death, separation, or divorce. Be prepared for loneliness. Reach out for SUPPORT as you need it throughout the holidays.
Do Now: Make a list of the people you will reach out to for support. Call now and let them know that you might be calling them over the holidays.
Tip #8 – Nurture Yourself.
Don’t forget to take care of yourself and do the things that help you to stay balanced. For some, taking care of yourself could be exercising, sleeping in, attending a play or going to the movies.
Do Now: I encourage you to take some time off work for the holidays. Though this may be a slow time or a time to get something done at work while others are away, this may not be as nurturing for you as staying home and enjoying time with friends and family.
Tip #9 – Exercise.
Exercising has benefits on many levels. The endorphins that come from exercise stay with us throughout the day. We have more energy and stamina when we exercise. Exercising will also help you to feel less guilty if you overeat during the holidays.
Do Now: If you have an exercise routine, stick with it during this busy season. If you have stopped exercising, re-restart now instead of waiting until for January and an additional five or ten pounds. If possible, exercise outdoors. While December can be a cold winter month for many people, exercising outdoors during daylight hours will help you to fight depression. Even a short walk with a friend will go a long way toward lifting your mood. Dress for the weather (and in layers) so that you are comfortable as you walk.
Tip #10 – Reflect.
The end of the year can be a great time to boost your spirits by reflecting on your successes for the year. Make some notes on those things that you are most proud of. Don’t indulge yourself in thinking about negative things that happened during the year.
Do Now: Consider sending a handwritten note to those people who contributed to your success.
I encourage you to take action now on as many of these tips as possible to set yourself up for a great month. By thinking ahead and working ahead, we can make this month the best in the year. Try it and let me know what you think!