The most wonderful time of the year is also the most stressful for lots of people struggling to fit in increased end-of-the-year workloads, holiday parties, shopping, guest hosting, travel, and seeing friends and relatives who you’d otherwise avoid. Luckily, the same coping mechanisms that can help relieve stress and find better balance during the year also work for the holidays.

Here are four tips to finding work-life balance during the holidays and every day.

1. Know and avoid your stressors.

If cooking for a large group, baking cookies, or Christmas shopping are your key stressors, don’t do them. Lots of grocery stores will help cater your next holiday meal, bakeries exist for a reason, and gift cards are much appreciated by all. Stop trying to live up to someone else’s expectation of the holidays and stay merry by outsourcing the pain points.

2. Get flexible at work.

If you normally commute an hour each way at work, see if your boss will let you work from home to save time, get more done, and reduce your stress. Or ask if you can start work from home in the mornings and come to the office later in the day to avoid peak commute times. Leave early and finish your day from the comfort of home, too.

3. Make your own list and check it twice.

Make a giant, end-all, be-all to-do list for yourself, for both work and life, then divide it up into categories like “must do,” “want to do,” and “feel obligated to do.” If you can eliminate any (or all!) of your obligatory list, the rest of your to-dos will start to look a lot easier.

Once you have your lists in order, it’s time to start crossing things off. In between your must-dos tasks, include a want-to-do task to break things up and re-energize yourself. Yes, the holidays are a time to give back to others and be selfless, but there’s still a bit of “self” in selflessness, isn’t there?

4. If you start to feel a cold coming on, come to a full and complete stop.

The best way to stop a cold from exploding into a weeks-long saga of sickness is to stop it at the start. Unless a task or activity is an absolute necessity, cancel your plans, put away your to-do lists, and settle in for a long winter’s nap. A day of rest (or several) is the only thing you NEED to do right now. Feel badly about canceling on friends and family? You’re doing them a favor. Once people hear that you’re sick, they’ll be glad you stayed away — they don’t want to come down with a cold during the holidays any more than you do!

People report feeling less stressed about the holidays when they stop expecting so much from themselves, because nobody puts so much expectation on us as we do to ourselves. If we stop focusing on what we feel like we’re obligated to do, and start focusing on what we want and need to do, the load gets lighter and the holidays get a lot more merry.

Featured photo credit:  balance via Shutterstock

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