Along with an increase of goodwill, the holidays often usher in an elevated level of anxiety. This year, take steps to create a season filled with more merry and less stress.
Illustration by Liz Adams
Let’s be honest, the hustle and bustle of the holidays can feel more like an all-out assault of unrealistic expectations rather than a season filled with tidings of comfort and joy. In our quietest moments we may even experience a feeling of dread as we flip the calendar one month closer to the chaos. Thankfully, the added pressure is offset by a spirit of appreciation and generosity — seen daily in the form of thoughtful notes, small gifts, and kind words from clients.
Every year, we do our best to prepare for the holidays, taking small steps to avoid the onslaught of demands. Inevitably, it all falls to pieces, and we’re left in an exhausted heap, nursing a cold and hoping we can squeeze our clients in and still have time left over to get ourselves cleaned up and dressed in time for family dinner.
This year, try a new approach: Embrace the stress. It’s all part of a season that brings with it the best of both worlds — the swirl of activity and the comfort of simplicity. Acknowledging the unavoidable tension changes your expectations, the first of seven steps you can take to reduce this year’s holiday stress.
Change your expectations. Stress is often viewed as a by-product of unmet expectations. `Think about it: You expect your client to arrive on time, but when she walks in 10-15 minutes late, you get stressed because it throws off the rest of your day. You expect your supplier to have product on hand, so you become stressed when you’re told supplies you need are on back order.
One way we can reduce stress is to change our expectations. Not in everything, of course, but let’s start with one big, unrealistic expectation: The holiday season will pass without getting hectic. That’s not going to happen. Between your schedule and the myriad of clients’ schedules that intersect with your own, you can bet a situation will develop that disrupts your whole day. You’ll be inconvenienced, forced to work longer hours, make an emergency supply run, spend more money than you had intended, etc. Make the inconvenience your expectation. That way, when it happens — and it will — you can respond with satisfaction at how clever you are for anticipating it rather than being stressed by a situation that takes you by surprise.
Create bumpers. A bumper is applied to take a hit and absorb the shock in order to avoid excessive damage. We need bumpers in our lives. You may have a different name for it, such as a “margin” or “space,” but ultimately, it’s the same idea — it’s time you’ve left free in your life so you have wiggle room for the unexpected. At every season in our life we should give ourselves a bumper to protect us from the crunch of the urgent, but especially at the holiday season.
“I make sure I block off time in my schedule far in advance,” says Laura Merzetti, a nail tech at Scratch My Back Nail Studio in Ajax, Ontario, Canada. “I know I’ll always need to run out to get something at the last minute, so I allow for that in my schedule.” Merzetti says this allows her to put her full attention on the needs of the clients without feeling stressed about where she’ll find the extra time. “It’s already built in,” says Merzetti. “Once I schedule it, I don’t change it!”
As a way of appreciating their top clients, The Spa at Traditions sends out holiday cards that include a gift toward any service.