Published on

Carreer Junction by Michele Majul-IbarraManaging holiday stress

by Michele Majul-Ibarra

We are halfway through the fourth quarter of 2018. Can you believe it? Only a few more weeks and the holidays are once again upon us!

For me personally, it feels like the year just flew by. It has absolutely been incredibly busy – extra hours, frequent travel, year-end reports, and meeting after meeting. While the holiday season is considered to be the most wonderful time of the year, it is also considered to be a very stressful period in every person’s life regardless or position or title in an organization.

In 2014, Virgin Pulse, a market leader in employee health engagement released a study called ‘Tis the season for stress featuring participation from 1,000 individuals from the United States and Canada. The study found 70 per cent of employees are significantly more stressed during the holidays. The data indicated that more than 10 per cent of those respondents said they are between 60 and 100 per cent more stressed.

For many, balancing seasonal demands extends into their personal lives, which causes an impact on both work performance and personal commitments.

In the survey, ‘Tis the season for stress, 64 per cent of respondents indicated that holiday-related stress makes them distracted at work. Two-thirds of the respondents also admitted to using up to 60 per cent of their workday to accomplish holiday preparation like shopping or running errands.

Oftentimes holiday stress is unavoidable and it seems like maintaining control over deadlines and personal responsibilities is virtually impossible. All of a sudden, your work now seems to be busier and so is your personal life. The good news is there are some ways to help relieve or manage the stress.

Take time to recharge

According to the 2014 Oxford Economics Assessment of Paid Time Off in the United States, 42 per cent of employees finished the year with unused holidays, leaving an average of 8.1 days unused.

Dr. Susan Kraus Whitbourne, contributor to the publication Psychology Today says, “When you’re stressed out and tired, you are more likely to become ill, your arteries take a beating, and you’re more likely to have an accident. Your sleep will suffer, you won’t digest your food as well, and even the genetic material in the cells of your body may start to become altered in a bad way.”

While it may seem difficult to take a few days off, it is important to take these days in order to not only recharge the body, but also to rejuvenate the mind. If taking a week at a time is not doable, even taking Fridays off to extend the weekends can make a big difference.

Plan and manage your holiday to-do list early

I know a few people who take advantage of Boxing Day sales or shop throughout the summer to get their holiday shopping complete. However, we all know that for many people, this is something that may not be a priority to include on their regular to-do schedule. Nonetheless, it is not too late to plan around this time.

Weeks before the holidays, it would be a good idea to turn your mind to creating a list of things that you need to do between now and the rush of the holiday season. No matter how busy it gets, having a plan will help you feel organized and in control rather than feeling stressed before the holidays.

Squeeze in some exercise

Exercise is a well-known natural treatment for stress because it pumps up the endorphins according to the Mayo Clinic. Endorphins are the hormones responsible for producing the brain’s “feel-good” neurotransmitters. While it may not seem to a lot, a 30-minute walk at lunch break is actually considered good exercise as it not only gets the body moving, it can also help reduce feelings of stress.

Between professional and personal commitments, it can be very easy to feel overwhelmed even way before the holiday season begins. While it may be difficult to manage stress during this busy time, taking immediate preventive measures could help alleviate some of the stress and may even help avoid carrying over the holiday pressures into the New Year.

This article is intended for information purposes only and not to be considered as professional advice.



Michele Majul-Ibarra, IPMA-ACP is an Advanced Certified HR Professional with the International Personnel Management Association. She graduated from the University of Manitoba with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Psychology and a Certificate in Human Resource Management. She also holds the C.I.M. professional designation (Certified in Management). E-mail her at

Have a comment on this article? Send us your feedback