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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Work-Life Balance

3 Ways You're Letting Work Ruin Your Holidays (and How to Stop)

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It’s that time of year again. The end is within reach, and no one can believe “where this year went.” I mean, really—how many times have you said that since Halloween?

No matter what you celebrate this time of year, the race to the holidays is in full swing. Through Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday, and on to shopping, baking, cooking, and wrapping, there seems to be no time to take a break.

And outside of holiday preparations, workplace stress loves to hang around during the holidays—it doesn’t take any time off. During the holidays, over 56% of people surveyed reported that work is their primary driver of stress.

That’s because we worry that work will infringe on our ability to enjoy the holidays with friends and family, and we stress about whether or not we’ll be able to take time off from work to relax a bit.

But that’s a challenge even if we get the time off: Only 41% of men and 27% of women strongly agree they can relax during the holidays.

So, knowing all that, it’s pretty easy to let your job completely ruin your holidays. Here are three ways we seriously sabotage ourselves this time of year (and what to do instead).

1. You Don’t Plan Any Time Off in December

Yes, that’s right. Just assume that all of your other social activities, family festivities, kids’ concerts, and neighborhood potlucks will all fit neatly into your already jam-packed schedule.

On the other hand, you know what would be better? Assuming you typically work a five-day week and have some vacation time built up, you may be able to take one day a week off each week in December. Maybe it’s Friday; maybe it’s Tuesday—whatever you (and your boss) can work out.

I’ve done this, and I was amazed at the difference it made. Just knowing I had an extra day each week to breathe made the pressure of the season much more bearable—and quite enjoyable.

2. Even When You Take Time Off, You Stay Totally Tuned Into Work

The holidays are the one time of the year when everyone’s expectations about response times lower. But instead of taking advantage of that, if you really want to be the martyr and ruin your season at the same time, keep checking that email every chance you get—even on your days off.

Research shows that 60% of smartphone-using professionals are accessible for 13.5 hours per day and an additional five hours on the weekend. If you really want your job to ruin your holidays, keep this pace up on your days off—an extra 72 hours of work right smack in the middle of your holiday.

A better way? Stepping away from the smartphone will actually help you enjoy your holidays more. When high-end consultants were asked to carve out dedicated times without email, they immediately reported significantly lower stress, more positive feelings about going to work, and a joy jump in their job perception.

If they can do it, you can—and should—too. Really, it’s not as hard as you might think!

3. You Let Your Stress Flag Fly

Most of us are stressed about work at some level, year-round. But during the holidays, it amps up. Between preparing for holiday celebrations and wrapping up the year, we feel extreme time constraints.

And when we feel that extra pressure, we often end up talking about how stressed we are—constantly complaining about it and sharing it with those around us. And not in a good way.

When you do that, you create even more stress for yourself. As the adage says, “What you focus on grows.”

It goes like this: You’re winded from running from one event to another, not having a minute to yourself, and then having to make one more trip to the mall. Oh, and then there’s the credit card slips piling up and the report your boss needs by Friday.

Guess what? You’re creating your own reality. The more you focus on and talk about your stress, the demands, and your lack of time, the more negative your overall energy becomes.

Instead, what if you didn’t complain? What if you anticipated going through each obligation on time and stress-free? What if you saw yourself enjoying the activities and reporting to your co-workers the next day about what a lovely time it was?

When you’re tempted to go to the dark side, reframe and think about what it is you really want out of the season—then see it happening.

Yes, the holidays can be one big bag of stress, there’s no doubt about it. If there was ever a time to balance your work and your life more effectively, this is it.

So, give it a go and see what happens. And, happy holidays!