Tips for Alleviating the Holiday Stress Surrounding Your Business

This time of year is enjoyable in many ways, but it can also bring added personal stressors that affect both you and your employees

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The holidays aren’t always joyful. Some love the shiny baubles, togetherness, family time, all-consuming cheer and celebration. For others, it’s a reminder of family struggles, lost loved ones, trauma, mental health challenges, addiction issues and more. It’s not always the most wonderful time of the year.

On top of this, families are busier than ever. To say it distracts people is an understatement. This wintery mix causes emotions to run high and work suffers.

To get yourself, your business and your employees through the holiday season unscathed is no easy thing. It takes a bit of compassion, a caring nature and staying mindful of the harsher realities of the colder season.

For your employees and co-workers:

Is it your business when other team members are struggling personally? Yes and no. It’s not about walking on eggshells or bending over backward. It’s not about letting people get away with bad behavior. In the plumbing industry, a distracted, tired, hungover or depressed employee can create disaster. This is about risk management.

Know the signs of anxiety and depression. According to Dr. Michael Wetter of Cedars-Sinai, extra stress, coupled with increasing feelings of isolation and loneliness can make mental health issues worse. If you think one of your co-workers or employees is dealing with anxiety or depression, check for signs like withdrawal from social situations, erratic or impulsive behavior, and increased irritability.

It’s not your job to diagnose or fix these issues, but you can create a bright spot in their day. For someone who is lonely, expressing gratitude or congratulating them on a job well done can help them feel appreciated and valued. We all need to believe our existence matters to other people. 

Promote a healthy environment. It’s very easy for bad health habits to creep up during this time of year. Sugar, refined carbs and alcohol are everywhere we turn. Busier schedules and less sunlight can disrupt sleep schedules, making us more tired than normal. 

Encourage healthy habits to help balance the scales. Remind employees to drink plenty of water. Instead of donuts for breakfast, offer fresh fruit and protein-based foods. When possible, be flexible with employees’ working hours, encouraging them to get rest.

Be kind. If an employee is struggling, they may need a little extra kindness and attention. You aren’t a mental health professional, so no need to offer counseling services, but you can respect hardships. Now is not the time to make an example out of someone.

This isn’t a blank check for bad behavior. Instead, it’s admitting there is a gray area and that human beings aren’t perfect.

For yourself:

Your employees and co-workers aren’t the only ones who are human beings navigating a challenging season. Don’t forget to include self-care on your to-do list.

Take time for yourself. Like your employees, you have a lot on your plate this season. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you are too busy to relax. That’s the stress talking, creating drama in your head. Everyone can afford a 15-minute break. 

When you are overwhelmed, stressed out, anxious or experiencing sadness, take a few minutes. Go for a walk. Gaze at the stars. Listen to music. Take a bubble bath. Read Plumber magazine. Whatever relaxes you — give in. Be selfish for just a little while so you can recharge and get back to your highly productive self. 

The underrated and often ignored part of taking time for yourself is knowing when to say no. No is a super word of self-care. Say no to social situations that don’t excite you, jobs that aren’t a good fit, and people you don’t like. 

Be open about your own challenges. This is an opportunity to lead by example. Be courageous and admit when you are struggling. If you want others to share their pain, don’t hide your own. You don’t have to tell the story about your terrible childhood Thanksgiving and why you can’t even see turkey without crying. Have boundaries. But admitting the existence of an emotion is within most people’s acceptable boundaries. 

We spend so much time with our co-workers, it's hard to not care about each other. If you are struggling this holiday season, share that this is a tough time of the year for you. They will probably extend you the same empathy you will give them.

Ask for help. I’m not talking about emotional help, but actual workload help. Even if you love the holidays and thrive emotionally, the season is still full of extra chores, events, travel, shopping and cooking. It’s too much for most people on top of your regular workload. Especially if you enjoy the holidays, learn to ask for help with tasks so you can do the fun stuff. Consider it an opportunity to practice delegation.

For everyone else:

Customers, vendors, drivers on the highway, the guy in front of you at the big-box store with 13 fruitcakes in his cart — these people might have a hard time through the holidays too. 

Don’t be pushy. Don’t guilt-trip people who won’t take part in holiday cheer. Not everyone celebrates and not everyone celebrates in the same way. You can be inclusive and welcoming while reading body language and social cues. Understand when to back off.

It’s not you. If someone seems unreasonably angry, it’s because their issue isn’t actually about you. It’s about whatever drama is happening in their lives. You are merely a safe space to vent that frustration, because they don’t have to see you again. Unfair? Absolutely. It’s frustrating that you have to take the brunt of their bad temper. But letting their bad day rub off on you is the wrong “paying it forward.” 

Stop the cycle. Liberate yourself from this stressful situation by assuming it’s not you. Shrug it off, shake it out, play a reindeer game, whatever lets you mentally move on.

Whether you’re surrounded by Scrooges or mumble “Bah humbug” yourself, these lessons are my gift to you. May we all approach the season with empathy and compassion, ending the year with a cheer.

About the Author

Anja Smith is managing partner for All Clear Plumbing in Greenville, South Carolina. She can be reached at anja@acpupstate.com.



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