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4 Must Dos to stressLESS™ This Holiday Season

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In my previous column, I identified and talked about the main reasons the holidays stress people out. In summary, often our fantasies and fairytales of the holidays get crushed by the predetermined outcomes we impose on them. Now I will talk about the top four ways and specific applications you can utilize to have a wonderful and stressLESS holiday.


Plan and Plan Some More 

Stress increases in direct proportion to the level of ill-preparedness we believe, exhibit and feel. The result is we are overwhelmed when we don’t give ourselves enough time to plan and prepare for a particular event, situation, or encounter. With the holidays being another layer of stress to your already full plate, it can be challenging to find the time for even the smallest of additional tasks, so the potential for psychological stress is high during this season. Commit to planning and preparing — even if it feels awkward or uncomfortable.

Apply these tips:

  • Use technology.  Create a Google Calendar and share it with your family. This way everyone can track who is doing what and when. It is also a great visual that will help you see how much you’re putting on yourself and your family and also where your commitments are.
  • Do it together. During the holidays, studies show women are more likely to be burdened with the responsibility of the planning and preparations. Do yourself a huge favor and sit down with team members and partners to talk through upcoming festivities. If you usually don’t participate in the planning, take some of the stress off those who do and ask what you can do to help. The balance of the woman’s desire to make the holidays memorable and special complemented by the man’s gift of simple and enjoyable outcomes will benefit everyone.

50/10 rule

When making arrangements and scheduling commitments, most people set themselves up for stress by scheduling too closely. To reinforce this bad habit, dental teams are trained and encouraged to fill the schedule to the maximum, filling every five-minute increment. This only compounds the stress levels, making it difficult for team members to focus and work to their highest level of efficiency.

During the holidays, observe the 50/10 rule: Of every 60 minutes, only schedule 50. This allows room for recovery from stress, builds in safeguards for feeling overwhelmed, allows time for accidents or interruptions, and gives you an opportunity to plan your next steps.

Stop, drop, and rest

To avert and avoid pitfalls the holidays can bring, make sure to stop the chaos, take some time to drop everything, and rest. Too often we are accustomed to pushing our bodies, so our awareness of when we are physically worn down becomes skewed. Be proactive and stop, drop, and rest.

At the office, follow these tips:

  • Observe lunch every day. The team will be more productive for it.
  • Close your eyes and listen to music. Classical is most efficient to achieve a resting state.
  • Take a long bathroom break, splash some water on your face, and set a soothing intention.
  • Before you leave each night, take 10 minutes to put your feet up in your own op chair. This lets the body recover from a busy day, and gets it prepared for the transition into family life.

When you are at home, try these tips:

  • Make relaxing activities part of the festivities (watching the kids play video games, enjoy a holiday movie together).
  • Cook only four out of the seven nights, relying on leftovers and “jump up” nights (jump up and get whatever you want to make for yourself) for the others.
  • Trigger the senses with dimmed lighting, soft music, lit candles, and comfortable clothes.

Don’t cross the line

During the holidays, you should not cross several lines. Crossing these, or even walking along their edge, heightens your stress levels and brings us to your first line: your stress threshold.

  • Your stress threshold is where you snap. It is the point at which your stress levels are so high you snap mentally, physically, emotionally, or spiritually. Once you hit your stress threshold, the holidays become memorable — and not in the way you were hoping.
  • Family boundaries need to be observed. There’s no denying that families coming together during the holidays is what makes them special. It can also make them stressful. To ensure things go smoothly and your stress response isn’t triggered, practice acceptance, forgiveness, patience, and always take a long deep breath before you speak. It’s not for them, it’s for you and the ones you love.
  • Keep out of the danger zone. We all have habits that are not good for us. Those habits we’ve cut back on (eating sweets) or given up (smoking). The holidays do not give us permission to forego healthy habits and revert back or start unhealthy ones with plans that the new year will set us right again. Studies show that holiday timeframe is just long enough for our behaviors to set in as habits, making them all the harder to stop after the holiday period is over. Stay out of the danger zone and continue doing all of your healthy habits, and even start some new ones, like rest/recovery or breathing, so you are setting your new year up for success.

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