We’d like to believe that the holidays are a happy time for spending time with our loved ones — and they can be. But they can also be a time where our stress is heightened. Research shows that stress tends to increase over the holidays and women experience stress during this time at much higher rates than men. In our everyday lives, common stressors include work, traffic, bills, and caring for our families, and around the holidays we still have all that, along with a sense that our time and money are even more limited than usual. At work, we may feel the pressure of upcoming performance reviews and end-of-year deadlines while covering for others who are away. And while stressors can be both personal and professional, we can’t clearly separate them. When we’re feeling overwhelmed by things at home or in our personal life, it does seep into our professional life and vice versa.
Yet stress isn’t always bad — the problems arise when stress operates in the background of our lives and controls us. As the late great William James, the American father of psychology said, “our greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.” In my course The Stress Detox: Reduce Stress and Burnout in the Workplace, I help learners make intentional choices and become “stress detectives.” When we understand where stress comes from and how it affects us, we can control stress and use it to our advantage.
What is stress?
Simply put, stress is an internal alarm system that is keeping a pulse on our safety. It signals to our mind and body to respond when change occurs, or when it perceives a threat. The body responds to these changes physically, mentally, and/or emotionally driving our behaviors. What’s important to note is that stress is a process, which means there’s a spectrum of stress that ranges from good to bad to ugly and everything in between.
In this post, I’ll share an overview of my 3D framework for taking control of stress. It’ll be especially important for you and your employees this holiday season, but can be applied throughout the year.
The 3D framework for taking control of stress
Part 1: Develop awareness of stress
There’s no shortage of information out there about what to do about stress, but I recommend slowing down, stepping back, and first figuring what exactly you are trying to do something about. Using the 3D framework you and your employees will first develop this awareness muscle. This is akin to turning on an internal flashlight to discover where stress is hidden in your lives by observing your own stress symptoms.
Once we are aware of these symptoms, we can investigate further to discover what is at the source of our stress. And knowing this information, you and your employees will be ready to do something about it.
One of the best ways to develop self-awareness is through meditation. A regular practice of sitting quietly with your thoughts helps you better understand yourself and the emotions you’re experiencing in any given moment. If meditation is unfamiliar to you or your employees, check out my guided meditation video here.
Step 2: Discover how stress manifests
Gallup defines the five areas of well-being as financial, social, career, physical, and community. Here’s a quick definition of each one.
- Your career well-being is about how you occupy your time or simply liking what you do every day.
- Your social well-being is about having strong relationships and love in your life.
- Your financial well-being is about effectively managing your economic life.
- Your physical well-being is about having good health and enough energy to get things done on a daily basis.
- Your community well-being is about the sense of engagement you have with the area where you live.
In each of these areas, we can observe the symptoms of stress — provided that we are actually taking the time to notice, which is why developing awareness is the first step!
In my course, The Stress Detox: Reduce Stress and Burnout in the Workplace, we look at the ways that stress symptoms manifest across these five well-being dimensions so you know what to look out for.
Step 3: Do something about it
Once you and your employees understand how stress appears in various aspects of your lives, it’s time for the last part of the 3D framework: do something about it.
There are many ways to help reduce stress, and I encourage you and your employees to experiment with these different stress detox strategies and find what works best. To alleviate the physical symptoms of stress, try dancing, yoga, eating healthy, and staying hydrated.
Taking a mental break is difficult when there’s so much around competing for your attention. To relieve the mental symptoms, try meditating, alternate nostril breathing, celebrating little wins, and saying “no” and setting boundaries.
Cultivating positive emotions whether individually or in your workplace has been shown to improve productivity, decrease stress, and reduce absenteeism. Oxytocin is largely responsible for this. When we genuinely connect with and care for others, we elevate oxytocin, leaving us feeling good and less stressed. A few oxytocin-boosting activities include hugs, pet therapy, laughter therapy, gratitude, and self-compassion. Be sure to check out my course, The Stress Detox: Reduce Stress and Burnout in the Workplace, for how to apply this 3-D stress management framework in your workplace and personal life.
What can be done at work
There are a number of things company leaders and HR teams can do to promote awareness of stress and reduce its effects in the workplace. Here are a few of my suggestions.
Companies are investing more time and resources into strategically creating culture primarily because research shows that positive culture supports innovation and productivity. One way it does this is through reducing stress. Having a culture where employees feel safe, have a sense of belonging, and are valued as humans first creates a built-in support system to leverage as stress relief. This creates a perception of stress as a positive challenge and allows for more resilience.
Mentoring and professional development
This goes hand in hand with culture. Having resources to support employee growth and development keeps them challenged while equipping them with tools and resources to complete difficult projects.
Managers as agents for change
Managers play a huge role in mitigating workplace stress simply by showing up as leaders who see their staff as humans first. By building in simple habits like starting a meeting with a mindful moment, encouraging employees to block out white space on their calendars, and approaching mistakes with curiosity vs. criticism can do wonders for workplace stress.
Carve out time for well-being
Having a culture of well-being is one where employees have access to and are encouraged to use health and fitness tools, healthy food options, mental health resources, personal coaching, and more. Around the holidays, you’ve probably already planned retreats or parties or other gatherings, but I recommend carving out a small amount of time to focus on well-being during these events. You might bring in an outside coach for a quick workshop or you could have a leader take a moment to acknowledge that it’s a stressful time of year and open up a dialogue that way.
Ready to take the next step to help you and your employees handle stress around the holidays (and throughout the rest of the year). Navigate stress this holiday season with my new course, The Stress Detox: Reduce Stress and Burnout in the Workplace.
About the author:
Ritu Riyat is a Mindfulness Coach, Workplace Culture Consultant, and Udemy for Business instructor.
About Udemy for Business:
Udemy for Business is a learning platform that helps companies stay competitive in today’s rapidly changing workplace by offering fresh, relevant on-demand learning content, curated from the Udemy marketplace. Our mission is to help employees do whatever comes next—whether that’s the next project to do, skill to learn, or role to master. We’d love to partner with you on your employee development needs. Get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org